Eco-Friendly Summer Camping Tips

May30, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

CampingSummer is the season of camping, and now that June is approaching, there will be more and more opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors! Are you ready?

When you go camping this season, here are a few eco-friendly tips for making the experience more sustainable!

1. Practice Safe Fires
What’s a camping trip without a fire? When you’re making your fire, don’t burn materials that will harm the environment such as plastic, metals or woods treated with chemicals. And if you’re using an outdoor grill, be sure to dump the ashes into your fire pit or discard of them in the campsite’s designated areas.

2. Bring Solar-Powered Accessories with You.
Did you know they make solar-powered camp stoves and solar-powered radio flashlights? Why bring the typical camping tools when you can use eco-friendly ones?

3. Pack BPA-Free Water Bottles
It’s always important to stay hydrated, but especially when you’re out camping in the great outdoors. Bring a BPA-free water bottle for each person. If there’s a nearby reliable water source, you can refill there; but if not, you could bring a portable water purification system along.

4. Borrow Supplies
Rather than wasting your money and other resources on camping supplies, see what you can borrow from friends. From sleeping bags to tents, you might be surprised what items your friends let you use.

5. Clean Up When You’re Done
When you’re done camping, clean up all your stuff, honor the land you were staying on, and leave no trace behind you. Unused kitchen items can be composted, and other objects can be disposed of in designated areas.

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Transportation Going Solar

May29, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

solar carSolar power continues to expand—especially in the realm of transportation. Here are a couple of the latest headlines and developments in the field!

*SOLAR BY AIR: First Solar-Powered Plane Takes Flight

In Switzerland recently, an experimental solar-powered airplane took its first transcontinental flight. Before the plane could launch on its journey’s first leg to Spain, it was delayed by fog—an illustration of how solar power is more susceptible to the effects of weather changes.

“We can’t fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,” Pilot Andre Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane.

The flight is part of a project that began in 2003 and will cost about $100 million total over ten years of time. In 2010, the Swiss flew an aircraft affixed with 12,000 solar cells nonstop for 26 hours, proving that sunlight could keep the craft in the air through the night. Now, this transcontinental flight is like a dress rehearsal for a round-the-world flight planned for 2014.

*SOLAR BY BOAT: Solar Boat Travels Erie Canal

The Solar Star 23 has traveled over 300 miles using only solar power. With a top covered in photovoltaic panels and a crew of three, the boat began in Buffalo, New York, one week before arriving at the Schenectady Yacht Club, cruising down the Erie Canal.

The boat’s owner Bob Meacham says this watercraft is especially unique because it’s the first of kind designed from the hull up rather than with solar panels added onto an already fuel-powered boat.

Meacham’s boat travels a maximum 10 miles per hour and has eight batteries that store all the energy it’s able to derive from the sun. The test drives are being done to show the vessel’s ability to make longer voyages via solar power—and in six weeks, it goes up for sale at $45,000.

*SOLAR BY CAR: Student to Tour World in Solar Car

A team of ten students is traveling the world by car—solar car. They’ve already reached Australia, the United States and Europe.

“We want to show that it’s possible to drive round the world on solar power,” student and team member Yago Elbrecht said.

Along the trip has seen some success, the car, which relies fully on solar energy, has run into a few snags. Due to cloud conditions that have kept it from properly charging, the batteries are empty. This has led the team to unscrew the panels and set them directly in the sun to store up power—it should take four hours to fully charge.

This solar car is the creation of Bochum University, with the support of the automaker Solarworld. The students’ world tour will last a full year traveling around Australia, the U.S., Europe and Asia.

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Samsung to Launch Solar Laptops in Bangladesh

May22, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

samsung There’s big news in the world of solar happening in Bangladesh, where South Korean electronics giant Samsung is set to launch new, solar-powered laptops this summer. Targeted to young, 20-something professionals with long commutes, these affordably priced ($415) 3G devices could be the beginning of a whole new generation of technology for the country. The devices are designed to provide long-term Internet access even in remote areas that have traditionally been without utility power.

“We will launch solar notebooks in June for young professionals,” said Choon Soo Moon, managing director of Samsung Electronics (Bangladesh operations), in an interview with Dhaka’s Daily Star. “In the beginning, we are not targeting big, rather focusing on creating demand for the products through promotional campaigns.”

While globally, Samsung is better known for high-end models of TVs, refrigerators and smartphones, in Bangladesh, it focuses most on basic products like cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, direct-cooling refrigerators and affordable handsets, the latter of which it holds 10 percent of the market share. Still though, in Bangladesh, it is ranked #1 for smartphones as well. Samsung hopes to find that this country, which is known not just for its nagging power crisis but also its long sunlight hours, will respond positively to the new laptops.

“It is a unique product and we will be the first company to launch it in Bangladesh,” said Moon.

Nonetheless, Samsung plans to focus most on product awareness, at least in the beginning, and hopes to see just around 500 of the solar laptops purchased each month.

For more information on Samsung, visit

DIY Solar Panel Plugins

May15, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

DIY Solar Plugin PanelsFor many homeowners in various parts of the country, the idea of solar panels feels like a dream—something outside of their current capabilities. If that’s been you, then you’ll be glad to hear about the latest development in solar: DIY solar panel plugins.

Developed by a company called SpinRay Energy, specialists in solar photovoltaic panels, these plugins are perfect for adding solar power to an existing outdoor deck. Customers may install panels one at a time and up to five panels, which can be plugged into an outdoor power outlet. With five panels, a total of 1,000 watts of energy can be produced.

The plugins, available through a few online retailers that include Amazon, boast UL safety certification and the ability to qualify users for a renewable energy 30% federal tax credit. They come with the same type of warranties offered by other commercial companies, for both the panel and the microinverter. Plus, as a protective measure, the panels will stop generating current when there’s a loss of grid power.

The president of SpinRay Energy, Arthur Chew, has five plugins installed to his own deck at home, and he’s had no problems with them. Still, he says, they are not exactly the same as professional installations and use relatively new technology.

“Our plug-and-play systems are not a replacement for a rooftop solar system,” Chew says. “They should be considered a stepping stone for those interested in being green and to learn the benefits of solar.”

The plugin panels are currently available for $999.00 each. For more information, see their Amazon listing here.

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Portland’s New Solar-Powered Pay Stations

May14, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Solar Parking Station PortlandWhen it comes to solar power, Portland, Oregon, is one of the premiere cities putting itself on the map. Not only is this northwestern town known for its focus on clean and green energy in general, but it also has made recent headlines with its solar-powered toilets and now, its solar-powered parking pay stations.

“The purpose of doing this is to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction,” said Portland parking manager John Peverada.

In the city’s pilot program, Portland is receiving 18 parking stations powered by solar energy, each serving about 10 parking spaces—and if the new stations prove popular via unsolicited feedback, the city may add more. Drivers can pay via credit or debit cards ($1 minimum), with Portland’s traditional parking rates of 25 cents for 15 minutes and a maximum parking time of two hours. Coins will also be accepted.

In total, Portland is paying $175,000 to purchase and install these machines and their signs, as well as handle regular upkeep. The new stations will be located on portions of Commercial, Fore, Federal and Free streets and in the West End near Maine Medical Center. They are expected to go live on May 21, reports say.

The meters come from Cale Parking Systems USA, the business behind similar meters that have already been installed in cities such as Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Baltimore; Minneapolis; and Indianapolis.

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Iron Mountain to Install Solar Panels

May10, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Iron MountainFor the first time ever for the company, Iron Mountain, Inc., has announced that it plans to add solar panels to the roofs of eight of its document storage facilities, located in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. Once installed, the panels will allow the facilities to produce more than 5.2 million kilowatt-hours of energy in their first year of operation alone and ultimately to offset almost 7 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, according to reports.

To complete the process, Iron Mountain is working with SunEdison. Through power purchase agreements, SunEdison will be the one to pay for, build and keep up with the solar installations; Iron Mountain will buy the energy at a fixed rate for 20 years.

“This is a win-win for our company and the communities where we do business,” said company CEO and Chairman Richard Reese. “We’re able to lock-in energy rates over the long haul, while our facilities produce clean renewable energy for the communities where we do business. Given our sizeable real estate footprint and the economic model of solar energy, this was a no-brainer. We’re excited to install these solar panels, and we’ll look to identify additional locations.”

With construction beginning as early as this summer, the panels will be added to two Iron Mountain facilities in Windsor, Connecticut; one in Northborough, Massachusetts; three in East Brunswick, New Jersey; and two in Freehold, New Jersey. The panels are expected to be operational by early 2013.

Although these panels will be Iron Mountain’s first-ever solar installations, they are part of the company’s broader initiative to support environmental sustainability. For more information about its corporate responsibility program, Taking CARE, visit

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5 Eco-Friendly Mother’s Day Gifts

May9, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

green mother's day

It’s almost Mother’s Day—do you know what you’re giving the special mothers in your life? Why not set the bar a little higher this year with an eco-friendly gift that’s not only fun but also good to the environment!

Here are some of our favorite ideas for eco-friendly Mother’s Day gifts on Sunday!

1. Flowers
What’s more traditional than fresh flowers? Instead of giving your mom a cut bouquet that lasts a week or so, consider buying her a beautiful potted plant instead, one that will last for months to come!

2. Jewelry
Jewelry is a classic female gift, but rather than purchasing the typical beads and chains, hunt for items from from recycled materials like glass, silver, etc. Likewise, handmade earrings and necklaces from artisans in your area are a special gift.

3. Chocolate
Show your mother just how sweet she is through the gift of sustainable chocolate. Look for brands with a Fair Trade label at the store, or visit one of these sources online: Theo, Kopali Organics or Divine Chocolate.

4. Heartfelt Note
You may be surprised how much a letter can mean, especially to a woman who’s invested her life in you. Take the time to jot down the things you’re most thankful for about your mom and be prepared to see her smile.

5. Service
Here’s a gift any mother would love: treat her to the luxury of being served. Make her breakfast, clean her house with earth-friendly products, do whatever you know she would appreciate and that would make her life easier. Not only is this a meaningful, low-cost gift, but it also will mean no waste (from gifts she doesn’t use) and thus, no damage to the environment.

We hope these five ideas have got your creative juices flowing! Whatever you do for the moms in your life this year, make sure it’s filled with thought and love—both for those special women and for the earth we all live on together!

Happy Mother’s Day from Soluxe Solar!

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The LogiTech Solar-Powered iPad Case

May4, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

logitech iPad case

Best Buy recently let the cat out of the bag on LogiTech’s upcoming solar-powered iPad case. Possibly prematurely, the techie superstore posted the eco product on its site, listing it with a pricetag of $129.99 and adding a “coming soon” label, leading to ripple effects throughout the Web.

Tech blogs and sites have been weighing in with commentary on the case’s “stiff keyboard” (The Verge) that “charges in ‘direct light’ and features 121 keys, with dedicated Internet and multimedia keys” (Mashable). It is only the keyboard that will be powered by the Sun, not the iPad itself; and for that matter, it’s only the new iPad that’s listed in the Best Buy product description, not the iPad 1 or iPad 2. The case weighs just under a pound and connects to the iPad via BlueTooth.

Made by Logitech, the case comes from the same company that recently launched the UltraThin keyboard cover, dubbed “well made, comfortable to type on, and – arguably most important for many iPad owners – [matching] Apple’s style rather than clashing with it,” according to SlashGear.

The solar-powered case from LogicTech has been rumored, but there was nothing concrete until now.

“Best Buy may simply have jumped the gun a little,” writes Adi Robertson of The Verge, “but this means we might also be seeing some tweaks to the keyboard before it’s released.”

What tweaks will come before the official release by LogiTech? It may be too soon to tell. One thing is for sure, though: people are talking about it.

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Butler University’s First Green Roof

May3, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living
sarah strobl

Butler University's Sarah Strobl

Indiana’s Butler University recently added the college’s first-ever green roof—a 1,300-square-foot installation that now sits atop the school’s four-story College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building. The roof was completed at the end of March by Eco-Roofs, maker of environmentally friendly green roofing systems. Installed entirely by volunteers that included university students, faculty and staff, the project was led by Eco-Roof’s Pat Maloney.

“The green roof may double, even triple the life of the roofing membrane,” said Pat Maloney, Midwest representative and accredited Green Roof Professional and project coordinator for Eco-Roofs, in a press release. She added the roof “also provides insulation to help reduce heating and cooling costs.”

Before Maloney and the Eco-Roof team could begin their work, the idea was originally instigated by Butler student Sarah Strobl, who researched eco roofs as part of her honors thesis. Strobl was also the one to secure about $25,000 in funding from Butler’s Student Government Association so it could be completed before she graduated with a biology degree.

“It’s awesome,” Strobl said of the completed project. “I’m amazed how green it is already, and it’s going to brighten up with color.”

To revolutionize the roof, Eco-Roofs hoisted 650 trays of soil and sedum from the building parking lot to the rooftop, and the volunteers laid the trays, eventually covering a 90 by 15 foot spread. With these changes, the roof should last longer as it is protected from the sun; enjoy better insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs; and improve local plant and animal life as it attracts bugs, birds and other creatures that can be studied by the school’s science students.

To learn more about the roof, take a look at Butler’s announcement or visit

(Image source: Indiana Living Green)

Solar-Powered Street Lights in Canada

May2, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

Canada’s science superstore, EfstonScience, has recently launched a new division, Enlighten Solar and Hybrid Lighting Systems—-one that specializes in solar-powered street lights. And now, after more than four years of testing various systems and designs, EfstonScience has a solar high-efficiency LED lighting system that combines with Clear Blue Technologies’ to offer real-time management, monitoring and troubleshooting as well as solar power.

“We have redesigned the overall look of the light arm and panel mount for aesthetics as well as maximum sun exposure and we have tested several wind turbines and now we have the ideal combination of hybrid power and looks that we have been striving for,” said Irene Efston, owner of EfstonScience and Enlighten Hybrid Powered Lighting Systems, in a recent press release.

The Enlighten Hybrid Lighting Systems can generate enough power to maintain light standards from dusk till dawn, using a fraction of the energy typically required. Already being used in the King Township, the city of Toronto and Ontario’s Centennial College, the systems are made of one or two solar panels and come with an Internet connection on every pole, making it possible to track performance, manage problems and oversee the systems from anywhere in the world.

Potential future applications include business complexes, shopping centers, academic institutions, public parks, city roadways and more. The solar lights are also available for areas that are larger, requiring more light, through a two-panel, dual-LED model or other custom solutions.

To learn more about this development, visit

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