Butterfly Solar

As scientists seek ways to improve the efficiency of solar , some have increasingly turned to thin film solar cells. Such cells are lighter and more manageable than traditional crystal-based cells and are expected to be more efficient if engineers can find a way to get them to work for longer periods of time.  One of the roadblocks to improving the efficiency of is the high expense of motion hardware that tracks the sun.  In this new effort, the researchers took inspiration from the rose butterfly, found commonly in India.  It has soft black wings that warm the cold-blooded insect during cool periods.

To learn more about the , a team of researchers from California Institute of Technology and the Karlsruh Institute of Technology collected some samples and looked at them under an electron microscope.  They found that the wings were covered with scales pockmarked with holes.  In addition to making the wings lighter, the holes scattered the light striking them, which allowed the butterfly to absorb more of the sun’s heat.

In their paper, published in the journal Science Advances, the group explains their inspiration for studying the butterfly wings and the details of their improved solar cells.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-black-butterfly-wings-solar-cells.html#jCp

The researchers created similar structures in their lab using sheets of hydrogenated amorphous silicon sheets.  A top layer with extremely tiny holes of various sizes caused light to scatter and strike the silicon base below.   The design allowed for picking up roughly twice as much light as previous designs. The process took just five to 10 minutes.

Get off the fossil fuel grid!  Go butterfly solar.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl


Shoes That Last Forever, Guaranteed

Allen Edmonds sells beautifully made, high, quality men’s shoes.

They gained much of their following after providing shoes to the US Armed Forces during “World War II”.  Many of the recipients of those shoes became loyal to the brand for the rest of their lives.



Allen Edmonds is a moderately expensive brand of shoes that men typically wear for a very long time and repair rather than replace. The company offers recrafting services; rebuilding a pair of shoes, replacing soles and heels, creating a new cork base and strip, and reapplying the finish.

More than ninety-eight per cent of shoes sold in the U.S. are produced overseas.     Allen Edmonds is among a small minority of companies that produces shoes domestically.  Retired chairman and former owner, John Stollwerk, made the company’s commitment to keep their manufacturing in the U.S. in 2003.   The company replaced assembly lines in their factories with teams of craftsmen, each of  whom perform several tasks. Their system makes it easier to cover for absent employees.  It reduces overtime, time spent picking up and putting down shoes, and the number of spoiled shoes during assembly.

Choose companies who have always been committed to making sustainable, morally responsible products.  It feels really wonderful every time you look at your feet.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself bragging about how great your shoe company is because you start to feel like it is your shoe company.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Your Soap Slivers Aren’t Finished Yet

When you can no longer keep your favorite soap in your wet hands, put it in an organza bag with a drawstring pull.  My friend, Stuart Fischer, came up with this idea and its really great!  The soap gets used up completely.  The ends stay out of the garbage.

Other sites show you how to boil the ends down and melt them all together to make new full size bars of mixed soap.  The organza bag eliminates the need to save lots of old soap ends.   And!  It makes terrific suds!

When you find a really great soap at your farmers market but its size is too big for your hands, cut it with a sharp knife and put the smaller section in your organza bag!

The bags are made of 100% Silk.  Once tied, hang it from a hook on your shower caddy and its ready for use over and over.   If you would like to purchase your very own please click the Buy Now button below.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Our Best Guide to Waste and Garbage Gurus

My Garbage Girl alter ego and founder of Waste Warriors is Jodie Underhill.  She is on a mission to clean up India and educate people about litter.  Her organization started by cleaning up the base camps after the adventure tourism industry sold the thrill of conquering our earth’s highest peaks to climbers.

This is a glaring example of us having the desire to be “at-one” with our planet’s unique offerings and yet our footprint of accomplishment is our waste.  The definition of waste is an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.

What is this behavior?  How is it possible that we don’t feel responsible for what we use once and leave behind?  Why does the next person have to experience our waste?  Who pays the cost for our lack of community and the guardianship of our home?                Kenneth Worthy of Psychology Today blogs about answers to these questions.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-green-mind.  

Let’s pause for a moment and consider that plastic bag we saw blowing down the street or the plastic water bottle lying in the gutter.   If it rains before that item is disposed of properly, it is washed into the storm sewers.  There it clogs up the filters in our waste water treatment plants (if there is a treatment plant).  If the storm is heavy enough, and the filters are full, that item bypasses the system and finds its way into our rivers and oceans.  It takes a ride on the currents and gets consumed by birds and marine life.  If it isn’t consumed, it starts to break down further and further to become part of the ocean ecology forever.  Think about that… forever… as in it will NEVER go away.  And then the cycle infinitely repeats itself all over again.  https://www.helpstoplitterbugs.com/educational-resources   Help Stop Litterbugs explores the global costs of littering and offers anti-littering ads and activities for kids as well as Educational Resources for teachers, parents and volunteers.

Let’s take that plastic bag and fill it with the litter we pass along our way and dispose of it properly by sorting what is recyclable.  We can follow Jodie Underhill and become Waste Warriors in our own lives.


TED Talks is a great resource for ideas about waste.  Here are just a few links to some of the most inspiring waste and garbage gurus:

Until Next Week,

Garbage Girl



Residential e-waste disposal is now illegal in NYC.  The New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act is in its final phases to address e-waste.

The statistics:

1. 80 to 85% of electronic products were discarded in landfills or incinerators, which can release certain toxics into the air.  http://ewasteguide.info/hazardous-substances

2. E-waste represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.

3. 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/faq.htm#general

4. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year.

5. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled.  http://www.electronicstakeback.com/w

6. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.

7. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.

8. E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America, according to the EPA.

9. A large number of what is labeled as “e-waste” is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery.

10. It takes 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.

11. Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to: Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

Our awakening environmental awareness and corresponding tightening of environmental regulations  increased our outrage to the disposal of hazardous wastes where we live thus escalating disposal costs. This pushed companies to seek cheaper disposal options for hazardous wastes in the developing world, where environmental awareness was less developed and regulations and enforcement mechanisms were lacking. The ugly underbelly of economic globalization uses the “competitive advantage” of cheap labour in poorer areas of the world to give them a disproportionate burden of toxic wastes, dangerous products and polluting technologies.  Developing countries are receiving low pay to perpetuate our most toxic industries becoming a global dumping ground for our toxic wastes at a high cost to their environments and health.

Unregulated, unprotected e-waste recycling

Unregulated, unprotected e-waste recycling

It was against this background that the Basel Convention was formed in 1989 to combat the “toxic trade”. The Basel Convention created a multilateral environmental agreement to pass a landmark decision that reverses this deadly trend and bans the export of hazardous waste from rich to poorer countries.

The provisions of the Convention center around the following principal aims:

  • the reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, wherever the place of disposal;
  • the restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management
  • a regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.

The Basel BAN Amendment furthers this initiative with a trade barrier erected for the environment, and for human rights, supported by developing countries in recognition of the present disparate economic playing fields that, if exploited, will shift pollution problems to those least able to deal with them, rather than solve them at their source.

BAN, Basel Action Network,   http://www.ban.org  is the world’s only organization focused on confronting global environmental injustice, economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Working at the nexus of human rights and the environment, they confront the issues of environmental justice at a macro level  in support of the principle of global environmental justice where no peoples or environments are dispro-portionately poisoned and polluted due to the dictates of unbridled market forces and trade.  BAN’s mission is to protect the groundbreaking, precedent-setting BAN Amendment from attack by industry and free-trade zealots who see it as a threat to globalization-as-usual.    BAN also promotes sustainable, fair solutions to our consumption/waste crises by banning hazardous waste trade and promoting green, toxic free democratically designed consumer products.

BAN is a charitable organization based in Seattle, Washington working domestically and globally with a focus in Europe (due to strong leadership in global environmental initiatives), Asia (due to being primary victim area of toxic trade) and in the USA (due to poor record of global stewardship and their indiscriminate dumping of toxic wastes such as electronic waste and toxic ships). Its sad to learn that San Francisco’s A rating was the focus of a BAN mission so this is not only global issue. http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/10263296-californias-e-waste-creating-toxic-mountain-in-arizona/

The “effluent of the affluent” is a by product of what became known as the NIMBY syndrome (Not In My Back Yard).  In the name of development, globalisation and free trade, it is, in fact, a violation of environmental justice and can be considered a crime against the environment and human rights. It is vital to halt this unsustainable and unacceptable trade not only as it disproportionately destroys the environment and health of those in developing countries, but because such “environmental cost externalisations” serve as a disincentive to sustainable global solutions.  Greening our manufacturing processes and products through “green design” and through “toxics use reductions” is a much Better Way.

http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-electronics/  The Story of Electronics, released in November 2011, employs the Story of Stuff style to explore the high-tech revolution’s collateral damage—25 million tons of e-waste and counting, poisoned workers and a public left holding the bill. Host Annie Leonard takes viewers from the mines and factories where our gadgets begin to the horrific backyard recycling shops in China where many end up. The film concludes with a call for a green ‘race to the top’ where designers compete to make long-lasting, toxic-free products that are fully and easily recyclable.

How You Can Help:

  • Go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/dsny/html/faq/dispose.shtml and learn how to discard all waste.
  • Go to http://www.electronicstakeback.com/w to learn how to discard e-waste.  Staples, Best Buy and Office Depot are heading take back programs.  Push your favorite big box retailer to follow their lead.  Amazon.com could also use some pressure to facilitate take backs for their suppliers.
  • Become knowledgeable about your electronic devices.  These tools serve us in important ways but they are also taking a toll on our environment and our health.
  • Electronics can no longer be discarded in your residential garbage.

Until next week,

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 12.40.48 PMGarbage Girl