Regulars and Shorts

Green Bits: May 2013

By Pax Rasmussen

News and ideas for a healthier, more sustainable future.
—by Pax Rasmussen

Heat grabber update

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my $50 in-window solar heat grabber that my wife and I built. Basically, the idea is you make a long, shallow box (bisected lengthwise) out of foam insulation board. The top part heats up, hot air flows into the house, pulling cooler air from the house down the bottom of the box, where it heats to flow up into the house. The idea is a sort of sun-powered, cycling heat exchanger. I bought the plans from Mother Earth News and now, I suspect, they weren’t considering the rather more intense nature of the Southwestern sun.

In short, my heat grabber melted.

The way the grabber works is the panel in the middle (bisecting the box) is spray-painted black, making a surface that absorbs heat from the sun. That heat is transferred into the air and heads up into the house. The problem is, that black painted surface got so hot in mid-March (when the sun started coming out for extended periods of time) that the foam panel melted, pulling away from the sides of the box.

The grabbers still works—sort of. Instead of cycling the air the way it’s designed to do, it sort of just wafts hot air into the house. There’s no flow now, since the box is no longer bisected. It’s just one big box of hot air.

So if you read my bit a couple months ago and intend to build one for yourself: Build it out of wood and line it with the foam insulation board, using some sort of spray adhesive. It might even be a good idea to put a bit of sheet metal over the middle panel and spray-paint that black, instead of the foam board directly. That way, the panel might melt or shrink a little, but it won’t matter: The box will still be sealed tight, and the heat will still go where it needs to go.

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15

The Environmental Working Group has released their 2013 “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides and Produce.” Personally, I look forward to this every year to see what’s safe to eat, and maybe if some things from last year have changed.

This year, bell peppers have dropped from #3 on the Dirty Dozen to #12, but were replaced by cherry tomatoes (which weren’t even on the list last year). Apples and celery are still #1 and #2, respectively, while peaches went from #4 to #8. Asparagus replaced onions for first place on the Clean 15 (onion is now #10).

EWG tests produce based on the way they are consumed, which means they peel and/or wash the veggies before testing. If you already have the smartphone app, make sure to update it to get 2013’s list (if you don’t, go to the link below and download!).,

GMO urban legends

We’ve noticed over the last few months that there’s some Monsanto/GMO misinformation floating around the interwebs. First, a list of supposedly Monsanto-owned companies to avoid buying from. The list includes such companies as Coca Cola, Ocean Spray, Lipton and a couple dozen others. The companies on this list, though, are not owned by Monsanto. They might (and most likely do) use products that have been genetically modified and sold by Monsanto, but the big M doesn’t own them.

Second: A chart that shows how you can ‘decode’ produce labels to know whether or not your veggies are organic, have been genetically modified or grown with pesticides. Purportedly, a four-digit number means the produce has been conventionally grown, a five-digit number beginning with a nine means organic and a five-digit number beginning with an eight means GMO. This is true, but these codes are used for the convenience of suppliers and grocers, and there is nothing that mandates or regulates the use of codes in this fashion. They could be different or absent for any number of reasons, so this should be used as a general rule-of-thumb only.,

Americans for alternative energy

According to a Gallup poll published in March, more than two-thirds of Americans want to focus on solar, wind and natural gas energy more than on oil, coal and nuclear. The poll found that 76% of Americans favor solar power development, 71% wind and 65% natural gas. Only 46%, 37% and 31% favored oil, nuclear and coal, respectively. The poll also found, not surprisingly, that oil, nuclear and coal were more popular with Republicans, and in the South. Democrats’ top choice nationwide was solar, whereas Republicans’ was natural gas.

This article was originally published on April 26, 2013.