Posts tagged ‘Science’

STEAM – Forging links between Science and the Arts

Blog post about the connection between science and the arts from Michael Parrish, Dean of Science at San Jose State University.

California Science Teachers Event

Two weeks ago the Green Ninja Project hosted an evening event for about 100 K12 teachers attending the 2012 California Science Teachers Conference in San Jose. In addition to yummy kettle corn and a surprise visit from the Green Ninja, teachers were treated to a great selection of inspiring short films that promote climate and energy literacy. Of course, we also showed some of our best Green Ninja Films –  Photos of the event can be found here and a list of the films we showed are given below.

The Majestic Plastic Bags:

This is George:

Facebook: Unfriend Coal:

When the Krill is Gone (trailer only):

– GN Team

131 years of global warming in 26 seconds

Have 26 seconds? Watch how global temperatures have changed between 1880 and 2011.

From the August 6, 2012 blog posting on Climate Central

While temperatures have been blistering this summer, this video takes the longer historical view. It comes to us from our friends at NASA and is an amazing 26-second animation depicting how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1880. That year is what scientists call the beginning of the “modern record.” You’ll note an acceleration of those temperatures in the late 1970s as greenhouse gas emissions from energy production increased worldwide and clean air laws reduced emissions of pollutants that had a cooling effect on the climate, and thus were masking some of the global warming signal. The data come from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. As NASA notes, “in this animation, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average.”

Green Light for Green Businesses

The wave effect of renewable energy is gradually picking up speed as more businesses are making wiser choices in the way they operate, thanks in part to the efforts of several great organizations that promote green business and green restaurants in particular.  Non-profit organizations such as Thimmakka are making names for themselves by assisting existing business’ efforts to change for the better.  Founded in 1998 by Ritu Primlani, Thimmakka has been working hard to create practical, quantifiable, and economically-viable systemic solutions to critical global environmental problems.  Thimmakka helps to transform everyday business practices to form a unique fit under Green Business Program guidelines that will yield both monetary and economic benefits.  These guidelines are set by Thimmakka to serve as a benchmark for Green Business certification.


This Bay Area based organization has made phenomenal strides in the race towards sustainability.  According to their web site, Thimmakka doubled the City of Berkeley’s number of certified green businesses in just one year!  Berkeley now has the highest number of green businesses in the entire bay area.  According to Thimmakka, their efforts have accomplished the following:

  • 19.4 thousand tons of solid waste has been diverted from landfills
  • 10.8 million gallons of water have been saved
  • 940.5 thousand KWh of energy have been conserved
  • 473 thousand pounds of carbon dioxide have been prevented from being released into the atmosphere
  • 1.3 million dollars have been saved in only 5 years

Thimmakka is not alone in their advocacy of green business.  500 Gallons and the Green Restaurant Association are just a few of the many organizations that are making a difference.  Wiser economic choices are also reducing energy costs.  That sounds like a win-win situation.  What other organizations do you know of that are working to help encourage restaurants to save resources an reduce energy costs? We’d love to hear about them!

See you next time!



Solar Power Powers Pizzeria

Just north of San Francisco lies Marin County, home to the only solar-powered pizzeria chain in the United States, Stefano’s Solar Powered Pizzeria. Stefano’s uses solar panels to generate the majority, if not all, of the electricity used in each store.  In fact, solar power provides 100% of the electricity used to run Stefano’s Mill Valley location.  In light of their green efforts, the Marin County Board of Supervisors has accredited Stefano’s Solar Powered Pizzeria as a Marin Green business.  In order to become a Marin Green Business, the company must pledge to stay green and identify ways to conserve resources, conserve energy, reduce waste, and prevent pollution.  More information can be found at

Stefano’s Solar Powered Pizza,

Stefano’s solar panels were installed in June 2004 for $111,000 after rebates.  Rebates can be given from the government for installing solar panels depending on equipment efficiencies, according to government criteria (  Having accreditations like Marin Green Business will also merit more rebates and savings.  After installing their solar panels, the pizzeria experienced a drastic change in their PG&E bill, dropping from just under $1000  a month to a mere $6.75 a month.  The panels’ payback period should be about 8 to 9 years and are guaranteed to last 25 years.   Imagine dropping your PG&E bill by over 99 percent!  The restaurants are still able to maintain their product quality and competitive prices using the solar panels.

Stefano’s Solar Powered Pizza made the wiser choice by installing the panels and the benefits have taken full bloom.  The government has realized the importance of renewable energy sources and is doing its part to make them more affordable and practical.  There has been a lot of talk about using renewable energy sources; unfortunately a lot of it has been just talk.  Stefano’s has put their money where their mouth is, and set a fabulous example for more businesses to do the same. Who’s next? Stay tuned!


Can Renewable Energy Completely Power the World?

Health is paramount for all living things, but sometimes we don’t even realize what damages our bodies.  Air pollution is one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide (  The World Health Organization ranks Bakersfield, California as the most polluted city in America, followed by multiple California cities (,28804,2095471_2095472_2095478,00.html).   Roughly half the people (50.3%) in the United States live in counties that have unhealthy levels of either ozone or particle pollution.  So what can we do?  One solution would be change how we produce energy.

Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Civil & Environmental Engineering professor at Stanford University, recently gave a lecture at San Jose State University about powering the world with renewable energy.  Dr. Jacobson recommended a wind, water, and sun approach as energy sources to power the world.  The following table shows Dr. Jacobson’s proposed plan which keeps cost, required surface area, and environmental statistics in mind:

Dr. Jacobson claims that his plan will:

  • Eliminate 2.5-3 million air pollution deaths per year
  • Reduce the global power demand by ~32%

Procuring 50% of the total power demand via wind turbines makes sense because the turbines are relatively cheap and the necessary resources (neodymium for the magnets and lithium for the batteries) are fairly abundant.  Although offshore wind turbines are much more expensive compared to onshore turbines, they generate more power and wind speeds are often high in the afternoon and night.  Dr. Jacobson also includes significant amounts of other renewable energies including concentrated solar power ((i.e.,, solar farms, rooftop solar,  geothermal, and hydro plants.  These are all based on current technologies and, according to his analysis, are also economically feasible.

Dr. Jacobson has definitely done his research and his plan appears to lay out a path towards reducing our environmental impact and improving our air quality.  His concern is that if global temperatures are allowed to continue rising, the Arctic sea ice may melt in the next 20-30 years. This may trigger drastic changes in climate that could be hard to reverse.  So, there is some urgency to make changes to how we produce energy in the coming decades.  Renewable energy is not the sole answer to our air pollution problems, but it is definitely a large portion of the solution. The remaining challenge is finding the political and social motivation to make these changes.

Problem solvers like Dr. Jacobson are helping to save this world every day.  Who’s next?


Who needs 5-hour energy when you have 24 Hr energy!

Americans are slowly but surely starting to realize their need for renewable energy. More and more renewable energy farms are being erected as we try to steer away from our dependency on fossil fuels. We are working hard developing technologies with wind and with solar energies, but sometimes it’s not windy and sometimes it’s not sunny. However, the Earth’s core is always extremely hot, and this is where geothermal energy can play its part. Geothermal’s popularity has been increasing in recent years (especially in California) and there is definitely a reason why. Geothermal’s goal is to harness the heat generated from the Earth and to put it to work; literally. Geothermal is an enormous resource, low maintenance, efficient, and could be an important part of the solution to our present energy crisis.

Geothermal energy sounds great, but what is actually going on in the cycle? The concept of geothermal is basically a system of fluids exchanging heat energy to produce work. Hot brine is brought up from the Earth’s crust using heat pumps and is passed through a heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is exactly what it sounds like; mainly via conduction heat is transferred from the brine to the turbine fluid. Many geothermal plants use iso-butane because it has a lower evaporation temperature than steam and reaches a higher pressure at the turbine, which makes the turbine more efficient. Thus, the power plant is using the high temperature and pressure of the turbine fluid to push and rotate the turbine, which is what actually generates the electricity. In addition to its high efficiency, geothermal energy is also very environmentally friendly because its two main byproducts are water and air vapor. The byproducts are clean, geothermal runs 24 hours a day, and the plants are easy to maintain. The benefits are wide and undeniable.

The only part that may hurt the environment is the drilling itself; however, rules and regulations set by several commissions and associations keep the drilling in check. Drilling is extremely expensive and can account for as much as 50% of the total investment cost. Drilling can cost anywhere from $5-$10 per foot putting the total cost of drilling in the millions. Also a great deal of research and testing goes into choosing a geothermal power plant location to avoid having to drill more than once. A profitable geothermal power plant would require a premium location with a low elevation (which is closer to the Earth’s core) because less drilling is required. Thus geothermal power plants are usually located along the borders of tectonic plates.

Rongere, F. (2012). Geothermal. Unpublished raw data, Mechanical Engineering, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.

Money is always a pressing issue and is unfortunately the main downfall of geothermal energy. Geothermal is a really big step towards sustainability, which is the ultimate goal of moving to a new energy source. It is our duty to make wiser decisions that keep our planet and our future generations in mind. Our nation often talks about goals that we have for future years, but those future goals can only be accomplished if we take action now.


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