A green Christmas

My university is making a big push for the environment, with an environmental studies curriculum being added, an ongoing effort for energy independence with wind and biomass power, and conservation in the construction of a new green dorm, so this holiday project for everyone is particularly appropriate: apply sustainable building design practices to a gingerbread house. Get to work, you’ve got until 31 December to submit photos.

I’m thinking we need to take all that sugar and convert it to alcohol…


  1. says

    (You have probably seen this, but…) Speaking of Christmas, did you notice the very important bill passed by the house yesterday?

    From Glenn Greenwald’s blog at salon.com: It “recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world”; proclaims that Christmas is “a holiday of great significance to Americans”; decrees that “Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization”; explains that “on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ”; and “expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.”

    The government is on top of our most important needs yet again!

  2. evanembee says

    H Res 847 (“Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith”) passed 372 to 9, with 50 abstentions. Check out how your representative voted here: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/110/house/1/votes/1143/ and send them a hearty thanks if they were one of the 9 brave legislators, a modest nod if they were one of the fifty hiding under a rock, and something scathing if they voted for it. I was horrified that Rahm Emmanuel, my rep, voted Aye.

    This is not just a stupid thing: when the fundies roll around again demanding crucifixes and commandments in courtrooms and classrooms, they can now point to the Congressional Record as evidence that the federal government has warm fuzzies for statements like “”Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;” … sheesh.

  3. inkadu says

    I hope they get the ventilation right. Traditional gingerbread houses are very breathable environments, but the new green designs tend to have very poor air quality.

  4. Kaleberg says

    That reminds me of the old MIT Architecture Department’s Baked Form which was a weekly, generally baked, lunch produced by the Built Form Group.

  5. Peter Ashby says

    Before you get too into ethanol from sugar check out this week’s New Scientist which has some nice graphics showing that no way do we have enough usable land to grow our way to business as usual with biofuels.

    There is a company back home in NZ which has a process to generate biodiesel from algae grown on sewerage, and you can use the leftovers from the biofuel extraction as a feedstock in an ethanol plant. Think about it, we grow ordinary food, eat it, excrete it then burn the carbon in our cars. The bigger the city, the more self sufficient in fuel in can be. No subsidies for corn farmers though, so don’t expect to hear about this from your media or government which is why I am telling you about it. It is also the sort of thing where the products can be pumped to filling stations around the city meaning no carbon burning tankers are required.

    And dairy and pig farmers suddenly get both a solution to their effluent problems and free diesel for the tractors etc. Which leaves the corn farmers out in the cold, yet more reasons why you won’t hear about it.

  6. says

    @Peter Ashby

    I’ve heard it said (by people in denial of their own mortality, so it may not necessarily be strictly true) that an area the size of Britain (NB not actually Britain, much of which isn’t well suited to growing crops) could feed the entire human population of the world on an ideal vegan diet (assuming you could deal with the logistics, and not accounting for e.g. coeliac disease, taurine deficiency &c.)

    The problem with current biofuel initiatives is that they’re crap. Fermenting maize and distilling the ethanol is extremely wasteful. Better to take all the inedible parts of food plants and stick them in a massive pressure cooker. What you get out of it is mostly methane, which is a good fuel for stationary engines. Also, we need to stop thinking of engines as being a 25% efficient source of kinetic energy, and instead use them as a 75% efficient source of heat with some KE as a byproduct. Every building needs heating. If every factory and office replaced their existing heating boilers with water-cooled engines rated to produce as much “waste” heat as the building requires, and used the engines to turn alternators or compressors, then for every 4 units of gas or oil you use, you get 3 units of heat plus 1 unit of electricity or compressed air. Since gas and oil are cheaper than electricity, this adds up to a saving.

    Of course, the existing energy companies aren’t going to like that much …..