Hybrid cars have been around for years now, but if you take a look at the latest electric models available many of them are advertised as "plug-in hybrid" cars. What’s the difference between regular hybrids and plug-ins?
Generally, hybrids are any vehicles that use more than one source of power. This usually entails using a traditional gasoline engine as well as an electric battery or engine. The car can often switch between gas and electric mode as needed to save energy depending on the conditions, providing a much more efficient driving experience. (Full Disclosure: I drive a 2002 Toyota Prius Hybrid, one of the first hybrids to be sold in the U.S. The car’s mileage varies depending on who is driving it; I usually get more miles to the gallon than do my (hotrodding) kids. Overall, I average around 40-42 mpg driving in the city. My car easily gets over 50 mpg on the highway.)
Like the idea of being an eco-tourist, but not exactly sure what that means? Most of my trips meet three criteria: they're fun; affordable; and make a difference in some concrete way.
The fun part is simple to define. I'm the "active adventurer with a cultural twist" type, so for me, a trip is really fun if it gives me a chance to hike, snorkel, scuba, mountain bike or otherwise get my adrenaline pumping, preferably in a place with gorgeous scenery that connects me to Mother Nature. But I also love exploring new cultures, enjoying the local art and restaurant scene, and meeting people who actually live where I'm just visiting.
What makes a trip fun for you?
Expense is always a factor, especially in this economy. Fortunately, there are more affordable options available than ever before. From couch surfing to camping to hostels and the budget hotels you can find through companies like Accor, our sponsors for this post, it should be possible to locate accommodations within your price range almost anywhere you want to go.
When your power supply goes on the fritz, or even if you simply need to supplement the power available on the regular grid, what can you do to keep electricity flowing and your electronics working?
Increasingly, communities are turning to compact solar energy charging stations to help meet energy demand. One of the most flexible and easy-to-install that I've seen is the ConnecTable Solar Charging Station, produced by CarrierClass Green Infrastructure.
The ConnecTable resembles a nicely designed picnic or cafe table with one notable addition. It has an "umbrella" made from photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into electricity. Sockets on the PV pole let consumers plug in to charge cell phones, iPads, lap tops and other mobile devices. They can also be used by crews in times of emergency to power any number of communications devices.
A big benefit of the ConnecTable is its portability. While some models can permanently be installed at college campuses, office complexes, resorts, parks, or shopping malls, they can also be brought in if an area's utility grid goes down as a result of a big storm or other natural disaster. While several people can sit around one table, multiple tables can be combined to form a micro grid and backup power source during extended power outages.
As for affordability, qualifying organizations may be eligible for low-interest financing of the tables through the Sustainable Energy Fund. Tables qualify for the 30% investment tax credit offered to businesses that install solar. Colleges can also use designated green funds to purchase tables.
Keep an eye on other products CarrierClass Green Infrastructure (CCGI) has in the works. The company designs, sells and installs solar electric, solar thermal and custom off-grid solar power products for both commercial and residential customers. As the reliability of traditional power supplies come into question, innovative solar technologies like those being developed by CCGI can be expected to play an increasingly important role in helping all of us stay plugged in.
I live in Maryland, where it is possible to source my electricity from clean, renewable energy instead of from coal-fired power plants. That's because in my state (and several others), the utility industry has been deregulated so that competitors can also provide power to meet consumer needs. One of my neighbors, Maurice Belanger, has been buying renewable energy for quite a while. He graciously offered to share his expertise with Big Green Purse readers to help people around the country opt for cleaner energy, too.
Here's his advice. I hope it helps you choose cleaner, greener energy where you live.
The start of the New Year is time for resolutions. If you live in a state with consumer choice in electricity, you can resolve to reduce your carbon footprint and keep that pledge with just a little bit of time spent researching your options and filling out a form or two on the Web—no need to invest in solar panels or doing anything more complicated than a few clicks of the mouse.
For several years now, I have purchased electricity from a supplier that offers me 100 percent wind-generated electricity. It was surprisingly easy to switch. Yet, talking to my environmentally-conscious friends, I find that many of them are not even aware that they have a choice.
I encourage you to look in to it. Here are a few tips on getting started.
Wondering how you can stay warm when the polar vortex and other cold winter weather strikes? I turn to wool, for everything from socks to sweaters to underwear.
CHOOSE SAFE AND HUMANELY PRODUCED WOOL
The trick is to find wool that is not just eco friendly but humanely produced. Many people feel like wool is the ultimate natural fiber. But remember - it comes from sheep, which may be brutally injured during the shearing process. In fact, popular merino wool has been particularly singled out because it can be so cruel to the animals. Why? Merino sheep have wrinkly skin. That allows them to produce more wool, but it also means that the sheep may suffer from greater infestations of flies. Many farmers employ a painful technique called mulesing: without using painkillers, they cut chunks of skin from the sheep to discourage flies from laying their eggs in the skin or wool. Ouch!
Plus, many farmers spray toxic chemicals directly on to sheep to kill other pests. Those chemicals may do more harm to the sheep than kill pests; they may also get into the surrounding environment and threaten the farm workers who are managing the sheep.