wouldn't you love it if . . .

you could get water out of thin air?

Now, someone has. In future, you will too.

An Australian designer from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne is the winner of the 2011 James Dyson Award for his “Airdrop” – a low-cost, low-maintenance technology for farming in arid areas.  (You may remember that, James Dyson revolutionized the vacuum cleaner with his stronger vacuum pump.) Both Linacre and Swinburne University of Technology received checks for  £10,000. Dyson, said Edward Linacre’s invention “shows how simple, natural principles such as the condensation of water can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.”

Asked what inspired him to create water from air, Linacre said,

The effects of climate change on Australia are accelerating at an alarming rate. . .  the worst drought in a century, lasting 12 years and resulting in irreversible damage to ecosystems, widespread wildlife decline and catastrophic bushfire conditions. Agriculture suffered record losses. An alarming figure of 1 rancher/farmer a week was taking their own life, as years of drought resulted in failed crops, mounting debt and decaying towns. . . The southwest corner of the country has experienced its driest year to date. Scientific projections indicate as temperatures continue to increase so too will the severity, frequency and duration of droughts worldwide.


While there are various atmospheric water harvesting technologies that exist today, most are high-tech and expensive  – out of reach for most small farmers. And so, Linacre’s invention, which “is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution; the pipe construction was born through investigations into the principles of air-flow. . . other elements include the turbine – designed to maximize air intake, to operate freely in high wind and switch to battery power in low wind.” So, farmers can use the Airdrop under almost any conditions, and without spending money for the energy to run it. The solar pump uses natural, free energy – the same energy used to grow the crops.

Linacre explained how it works on the Dyson Awards Winner Page,

Moisture is harvested out of the air to irrigate crops by an efficient system that produces large amounts of condensation. A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water. The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped through to the roots of crops via sub surface drip irrigation hosing. The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and system health.


For those like me who are low-tech ourselves, that means taking air and cooling it in pipe networks until the water comes out of it.Farmers can install and maintain the unit themselves. Linacre’s prototype, installed in his “mum’s backyard,” made about 1 liter of water each day. This proves that the concept works, and the award will hopefully allow creation of a commercial model for farm use, since that was Linacre’s goal. Could this finally be a way for farmers to have water for their crops without any boundary or waterway issues and without drought concerns?

All across Australia farmers are waiting with baited breath. And I am waiting, hoping for it to be available in drought stricken areas all over the world. Meanwhile, I say to Edward Linacre of Australia,

Rock on!


preteens knew what to do with themselves?

I can’t vouch for all of them, but here’s a story about one 12-year old who knows exactly what to do with her spare time!

You see, there are some very happy people in Rachel’s Village near Leogane, about 1 hour’s drive from Port-au-Prince, Haiti these days. Why? Because 12-year old Rachel Wheeler, for whom the village is named, raised over $250,000 to build 27 homes. Many of the new home owners are first time homeowners, indeed, first time home dwellers who had to be taught to fit a key into a lock! And Rachel’s not done yet. She says that she plans to build 20 more homes and a school. So, how did this all start?

A little over two years ago, just after the devastating 7.2 earthquake hit Haiti, Rachel attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting with her mom. She was just 9 at the time, and her mom wasn’t sure that she even understood the presentation. Except to have nightmares from the horrific images in the slide show. And then, Rachel stood up on a chair and said that she was going to help. And she got busy fast . . . Rachel collected funds by organizing bake sales, passing a donation can at homecoming games and selling homemade potholders at her Deerfield Beach, Fla. school, according to the Huffington Post. Not afraid to ask people she knew to donate, Rachel approached her parents’ friends and her church for help and got two large checks from Lighthouse Point Chamber of Commerce.

“Little children will lead us and teach us how to do things,” Robin Mahfood, President and CEO for Food For The Poor, told the news outlet. “It is amazing. She is a tremendous girl.”

And Rachel isa tremendous girl. She wants to build a school for the 250 students who lost theirs in the earthquake. “I want to build a school because they need education to make their lives better so they can learn and teach their own children how to have a better life,” Rachel told Food for the Poor. You might think that she’d take a break, having already passed the  halfway mark in her fundraising efforts for building the school, but she’s determined not to quit too soon. She wants the kids to go to school so that they can improve their lives. “I don’t believe I can snap my fingers and change Haiti overnight,” she told NBC. “I know I have to work at it.” And so, she does. To help Rachel reach her goal, please go to http://support.foodforthepoor.org/site/TR?pg=fund&fr_id=2091&pxfid=4112

 Rock on, Rachel!

there were a use for all those dirty diapers?

Well, there is. Now before you say “Eeuuw!” let me tell you that they clean them up first.

A company inthe United Kingdom, Knowaste, has been recycling dirty diapers – both the juvenile and the adult versions –  and feminine hygiene products (a group they call absorbent hygiene products) since the 1990s.

The process involves three key stages:

  1. Used nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products (AHPs) are collected and transported to a Knowaste plant.
  2. The Knowaste process sterilizes the AHP material, deactivates and mechanically separates the individual components:  organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers.
  3. The reclaimed components can then be made into recycled products such as:
    • plastic components for product manufacturing
    • plastic recycling bins
    • Plastic roofing tiles
    • cardboard
    • cardboard industrial tubing
    • fillers in the construction and road building sector


So, why recycle these AHPs? Knowaste’s answer,” Because we can!” Seriously, folks, we do not want these things in our landfills.

  1. They take 500 years to decompose
  2. They contain human waste
  3. We can salvage the raw materials

So, here we have a company that has been quietly taking our dirty diapers and making them into useful stuff since at least 1999. According to the company website, their facility at Arnheim in the Netherlands:

  • Processes up to 100,000 tons of diaper material per year.
  • Successfully converts disposable diapers and adult incontinence products into marketable materials.
  • Produces 20,000 tons of recycled fiber and 12,000 tons of usable recycled plastic per year.
  • Recycles diaper and incontinence waste from more than 1,200 healthcare institutions, 750 day care facilities and more than 100 municipalities in The Netherlands.
  • Saves 150 million gallons of fresh water that would be used in the normal production of cellulose fiber.
  • Saves more than one million cubic meters of natural gas; enough energy to power a city with a population of 10,000 for one year.
  • Saves more than 230,000 trees from being harvested each year to obtain the equivalent fiber than can be recovered from this facility

Now, I’d probably be very quiet, too, if I were cleaning up dirty diapers. However, I do think that these folks deserve a great big round of applause for taking something so distasteful to us and harmful to the environment and turning it, diaper by diaper by feminine hygiene product, into useful things while saving our other resources.

 If you hear that these folks are coming around your landfills or your towns to ask for a contract, please support them. Speak up for them to your elected officials and get AHPs out of our landfills.  Knowaste will take all the used AHPs from hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and daycare centers and recycle them. So they don’t take AHPs from you and me – that is still a lot of extra room in our landfills and a lot of  resources saved.

Knowaste was once in the US; in Santa Clarita, Ca. (Because of this, California unfairly got the credit for diaper recycling in a blog back in 2002.) The program there was terminated in 2003 because it was still too costly for the single household. Knowaste has been working on bringing the cost to the household down, though it still costs more to recycle those dydies than to throw them away – wehn you measure the cost in dollars spent  on fees alone – so they do not deal with single family dwellings or even apartment complexes, yet. The kids in my life are long out of diapers, but I’m hoping that their children’s dirty dydies will be recycled.

Rock on!


video gamers did something useful?

Well, they have and here’s the proof!


A group of video gamers have cracked the code on a monomeric protease enzyme that has baffled scientists for years. It’s an enzyme that helps build the AIDS virus, among others. Scientists have been trying to determine the structure of the enzyme in labs and with computer simulation programs for more than a decade.

So, how did they do it? By playing a game called Foldit, which was developed at the University of Washington in 2008. When the game players decided to divide into teams and tackle this enzyme, it took them just 3 weeks to solve it.

And you thought your kid would never do anything good with video games.

Rock on!

there were no more hunger problems?

Me too. With 1 in 6 Americans fighting hunger, many of them children and seniors, the problem is massive. I was there as a child. I know how it feels to try to sleep with an empty belly and no idea where you’ll get a next meal. So, as an adult I’ve been a food bank volunteer, founder, builder, donation solicitor for many years now. I work in my own little corner of the world on a daily basis and pretty much don’t worry about the rest of the planet. I can’t let myself get overwhelmed at the problem, so I keep my focus very limited. Generally.

Today, I got an ad for “Global Hunger Shabbat” in my email. It seems that American Jewish World Service is sponsoring both this Friday evening-Saturday sunset observance and “18 Days of Action” which lead up to Thanksgiving.

America’s Second Harvest is doing a similar build up to Thanksgiving and the holiday season. They also offer an interesting challenge: Live one day on a food stamp (SNAP) budget and then blog about your experience. Pretty cool way to get involved.

Share Our Strength is an organization of food service professionals that work together to fight hunger with special events and education. They are running a Taste Of program, where people get to pay a fee and eat food prepared by some of the top chefs in their area. The money goes to feed hungry children. 

Anyhow, the point is, with each of us doing one thing, getting educated, taking a challenge, contributing food when the library (usually $1 an item in overdue fine reduction) or the postal carriers (coming to your mailbox soon!) start collecting, buying a little extra and leaving it in the food bank containers at the grocery, talking about hunger to our kids, and anything else you can think of . . . we CAN win this. We are the richest nation in the world. We have great organizations and individuals going at the problem in many ways. It will happen. Let’s make it happen soon!

Rock on!

we all stopped using so much electricity?

Well, apparently it’s starting to happen!

This comes from statesman.com:

From 1980 to 2000, residential power demand grew by about 2.5 percent a year. From 2000 to 2010, the growth rate slowed to 2 percent. Over the next 10 years, demand is expected to decline by about 0.5 percent a year, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit group funded by the utility industry.

So, right now, we’re buying more and more electronics, but the demand for power is not increasing as much as one would think to accommodate them. I am most encouraged by the line about the projection into the next decade, where we’re expected to demand less each year.

What can be the reasons for more stuff needing more power but less demand for power?

Well, first there’s the Energy Star program that involves collaboration between the government and manufacturers. The government sets the standards and ratings, the manufacturers produce electronics that use less energy via better conservation of the energy they do use and via things like automatic switch offs. It used to be that only large appliances carried this rating and certification, but I’ve recently seen it on laptop computers and even alarm clock radios!

Second, and to me more encouragingly, there’s the movement toward solar energy. In Southern Arizona, where I currently live, there’s no good reason not to go solar in my mind. I mean, really, what do we have more of than sun? So, if you’re in Southern Arizona and want to go solar, these guys are a good resource, and no this is not a paid endorsement. (If it were, I’d have to print their name!) Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California that built their new library with recycled materials and so many solar panels that the college makes money from selling electricity to the utility company!  Now that’s using solar power.

Thirdly, some folks are simply abiding by the power companies’ advice on when to consume electric power. Some of the “off peak” times are so late (or early?) in the day that I’m sure it cuts people’s consumption. Most electric companies provide programs like this one at my local utility.

So, no matter whether we’re buying better electronics, using electricity more sparingly on off hours or selling power back from our solar panels, we’re moving in the right direction. Less power use equals smaller carbon footprint and lower bills. This is all to the good whether you are politically, socially or fiscally movtivated.

Rock on!

all teenagers could find things to do on their own

I once knew a cute little Jewish kid who loved being around the synagogue and seemed to just eat up lessons on things ethical and moral. He was short, but he loved basketball. And he worked hard toward the day of his bar mitzvah. I knew him as a teacher and tutor and I really enjoyed working with him. He was well mannered and easygoing, a genuinely friendly kid. By the time I moved away from Santa Rosa, Ca., he was no longer a kid, but a young man.

Well, just the other day, his mom sent me a link to show me what he’s been up to since we last met. While I was pleasantly surprised, I didn’t learn anything new about him except the specifics of his activities. The qualities I’d always admired were still there, and they’d grown! Just like Gabe Ferrick himself. And so, without ado, I will present the links to show you, too, why he’s the subject of this “good things” blog today.  http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news%2Fabc7_salutes&id=8329603





I don’t know about you, but I’m going to encourage the youngsters in my life to follow in Gabe’s footsteps for the cause of their choice!  Oh, one more thing. I am so proud of this guy that I’m beside myself. What an honor to have been his teacher!

Peace to you.