Getting there: ORF to LHR

June 17, 2014

I had everything packed superbly for my trip this past January to Costa Rica: a two-person tent, stove, light sleeping bag, clothes, emergency food – all carefully coralled into water-resistant bags in case of rain. But England proved different. I needed clothes for all sorts of temperatures and weather and outings and FOR THREE MONTHS. After two unsuccessful attempts at being organized, I began to just throw random things into bags the morning of my departure. The two bags I wound up with must have been 90 pounds combined. And I do not believe in bags with wheels. So that’s 80% of my body weight deadlifted and then hauled on my shoulders. I was definitely on the struggle bus – or rather struggle tube – getting from Heathrow to my hostel.

Actually, the whole trip there was a struggle. 

At the ticket counter in Norfolk, I was only issued one ticket from Norfolk to JFK, and not my ticket from JFK to London. When I asked why, the attendant gave me explicit instructions to get to JFK and then “tell someone you need help.” This sounded like a really solid plan, backed up with the cryptic sidenote that I may have to completely exit the terminal and re-go through security. Awesome.

My plane out of Norfolk was already 20 minutes late before we then sat on the tarmac forever in the stifling hot cabin. After 30 minutes the plane turned around and went back to the terminal so we could all get into the air conditioning. The captain grumbled something over the intercom that even the stewardess couldn’t interpret. A lady in the back yelled “Obama’s at JFK ya’ll, he’s holding us up.” (To fully appreciate this, please repeat it to yourself in your loudest accusatory voice, with that special emphasis on the ‘O’ in Obama – you know what I’m talking about). I rolled my eyes at how presidents get blamed for every little thing, most of which they have no control over. Hilariously though, she was right. Air Force One was at JFK, and apparently that means no flights are allowed to go out or come in. Including ours. I did eventually arrive two hours later, but had missed my connection. I arrived and asked for help, as originally instructed, and got a 10:30pm flight out – my checked baggage (amazingly) and I happily made it. I did have to re-go through security, but that was mostly my fault as I got turned around in a construction area and went through the wrong door.

I got almost no sleep on the red-eye. A 6-hour flight seemed like a legitimate opportunity to do so, but they kept you awake for two hours for dinner and then woke you up two hours early for breakfast, add a movie in between and you’re screwed. Before I left, my friend Tracee had mistaken Nottingham (the city I am doing research in) with Notting Hill (a suburb of London) and had proceeded to describe the wonders that awaited me based on the 90’s film of the same name. I had never seen the movie so that became my free, in-flight entertainment. Pretty sure I giggled awkwardly loud.

Despite the stressful circumstances, I knew I would get there eventually. I found myself humming “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine goes down” as I walked through the terminals. London, here I come!

Costa Rica GREEN Program: Day 10 (1/17/14)

With our capstone projects over and all of the site visits completed, we headed west to the Pacific for some well-deserved beach time

8:45am: check out of San Louis and head onto the bus

noon: lunch (cheese fries, yes, finally!)

1pm: Check into hotel in Tamarindo

2pm: Conchal Beach – gah, this place was gorgeous see:upcoming posts

7pm: Pizza dinner with Kelly

9pm: Dancing at crazy monkey

Capstone Project Presentations

Our guidelines: Pick a topic, any topic, as long as it’s related to sustainability, find other people interested in your topic, research it and go. Admittedly, most of these ideas (especially my group’s) were put together at the least second, but they all spawned some really interesting discussions.

Me, Kelly and Dillon’s Project:image

My notes from everyone else’s presentations:

Students for Sustainability – Jaime and Amy
–          Create a sustainable idea, reach out to your network
–          More support = more change
–          College students surrounded by lots of resources, trying to connect their passions
–          Small ideas: motion sensor lighting, faucet flows, recycling water, composting in dining halls, rooftop gardens, CFL

A case for compost – an advocacy group – Jennifer, Amy, and Alicia
–          provide communities with composting consulting services
–          composting and recycling can divert 70%-90% of municipal solid waste
–          90 cities have composting programs while 8,660 have recycling programs
–          Model: San Francisco’s mandatory program where people are subject to fines
–          Promote widespread implementation through lots of pilot projects in schools, local govt, etc to educate the population
–          Have “pick up days” at these central locations
–          Make the blue, green, and black trash bins color coded nationwide

Making solar cheaper and more efficient – Kara and Sara
–          current shit: crystalline silicon, may 20% efficiency, current uses include remote areas communication traffic
–          Tandem cells: amorphous silicon and non crystalline silicon absorb different spectrums of light on the top and bottom of a cell
–          Solar paints
–          Nano-inks
–          Policies:

  • Feed-in tariffs
  • (run by DOE)
  • Restrictions on metering and networking

–          Social:

  • Used in developing nations
  • Create jobs
  • Recycle materials (glass and silicon?)

–          Economics:

  • Traditional pv cells require glass protection making them heavy
  • Need economies of scale to lower price
  • Chinese labor costs super low – how do we produce in the us?
  • Hoping to cut prices in half in the coming years

–          Solar glass and solar paints for car
–          Peroskite

Sustaina-city: a sustainable approach to city planning – Katie and Joelle
–          Mission: provide cities with a sustainable plan to follow
–          Sprawl: when cities expand their boundaries into bordering areas with low density development
–          A study done by Smart Growth America found a direct relationship between sprawl and chronic disease – more likely to walk less, weigh more, and have high blood pressure
–          Technology:

  • Transit/biking
    • Zip cars
    • Walking
    • Biking
    • Public transit
  • LEED certified buildings
  • Mixed use developments
    • Combine residential and commercial in a single building
    • Policy
      • Old laws prevent mixed housing developments from being adopted
      • Limits to non-residential portion of projects they insure to anywhere from 15-30% of its value – eliminating these caps could help mitigate the risk of some developers
  • Community gardens

–          Social Impact: People aren’t used to being in such close proximity – gated communities have allowed people to lock themselves in their own fortress, many don’t know their neighbor
–          Long term impact

Harvesting Lightening – Steve, Tom, Anggie

–           Ben franklin rap
–          100 lightning bolt strikes on the planet/hr
–          3 million volts/m, 10k-50k amps == GW of power in a single bolt of lightening
–          anatomy of a lightning strike – branches out until it reaches the ground, short to ground then pulses-          artificial lightening to charge cell phone
–          set up 6 towers in a football sized field, 20 yards apart – power house 500 yds away – towers have very thick gauge wire – wires enter vat with lots of impurities for high impedance to heat up everything – liquid is vaporized, steam powers generator

  • materials:
    • super thick gauge wire
    • methanol – holds heat better – creates steam for a  longer amount of time
  • Florida ideal location: the capital of lightening

–          Policies? What policies?
–          Cost

  • One-time cost: (total :1 million)
    • Storage tank: 40k
    • Methanol: 150k*$1.50
    • 100,000 in wire
    • steam turbine: 325k
    • power house: 75k
    • land: 50k
    • condenser: 50k

–          Feasibility: extremely unreliable

Standardizing the elimination of ghost power – Nick and Mike
–          where does ghost power come from?

  • Necessary: control receivers, sensing equipment, printers, communication devices
  • Not necessary: charging equipment, backlit screens, clock signals, ectronic utilites

–          The plan:

  • Education
  • Suggest energy star appliances
  • 1 watt initiative (initiative for electronics to only use 1 watt in standby mode)
  • tax break for companies for products that consume less than 0.25 watts while in standby mode
  • expand use of Kill A Watt meters

–          The US uses an obscene amount of energy – we will need to change our habits and technology – not just rely on renewables
–          EEE communication device

Agua Es Vida – Lindsey, Adriana, Mike
–          1/5 children’s death is to water related disease
–          40 billion hours women spend of carrying water
–          Create a BLUE program:

  • Technology:
    • GIS
    • Energy
  • Social
    • Law and Policy
    • Usage
    • IR
  • Environmental Health
    • Water bourne diseases
  • Treatment Process
    • Desalination
    • Waste Water
    • Bio Sand Filter
  • Water of Country
    • History
  • Agriculture and Water: Desertification

–          Have site visits for each topic
–          Instead of Capstone Projects, focus on on-site community service projects
–          Target country: Belize – poor, safe, mayan, etc
–          Potential partners: living water international and the water project

Costa Rica GREEN Program: Day 9 (1/16/14)

9am: Paddleboarding

It was cold. And ridiculously windy. And it even started to rain. And the instructor dude had a very short fuse, which you would think wouldn’t be compatible with this line of work. But I did it, so there you go.

(photo credit: Jenn Richman)

10am: Work on capstone presentations

3pm: Get kicked out hotel room for cleaning people and forgot my laptop charger to continue working on capstone, so I went an got a massage #hardlife

6pm: Capstone presentations

9pm: Celebratory beer pong tournament