Things to Do with Your Old iPad When iPad 2 Arrives

The iPad 2 is rumored to be announced on March 2nd and many avid Apple fans are already checking their savings accounts in preparation for the new device. I thought I might put together a list of ways to repurpose your old iPad instead of putting it away in the closet.

Digital Photo Frame
Thanks to apps like Hulu Plus and Netflix, many are already using their iPads for media consumption, however one easily overlooked feature is the built-in ability of the iPad to work as a digital photo frame. Since you probably wouldn’t carry two iPads around with you everywhere you go, setting the old one up at home or work on outlet power and configuring it as a photo frame should be a breeze.

Family Message Center
Leaving messages for family members is often done on a notepad attached to the refrigerator, by the front door, and even stickied to computer monitors. You can free yourself from a mountain of paperwork by setting the old iPad up somewhere in the house as a message center. You can make it really easy to leave a message by moving Notepad, a voice memo app, and a sketch book app to the dock.

Recipe Appliance
We generally don’t bring the iPad in to the kitchen during food preparation in fear that something might get inadvertently slung on the device that would require extensive cleaning before we can take it to another room. This fear is greatly diminished with the iPad set up in a nice protective case that can be easily cleaned. Sadly, these super  protective cases are rarely the ones that you want to carry around with you all day. They can be bulky and cumbersome. Having a new iPad frees up your old one for this important and productive role.

24/7 Live Stream Viewer
I love watching live streams on the web. Chris Pirillo, TWiT, and other shows offer live streams that have a tendency to take up valuable screen real-estate. Stopping the live stream every time I check email on the iPad is annoying, but not so much with a dedicated device. The same repurposing can be used with Netflix and Hulu Plus in mind. Sometimes, you just want to have media playing on the side of your primary desktop rather than being a part of it.

Many Still Clueless About How To Save Energy

There should be an image here!Many Americans believe they can save energy with small behavior changes that actually achieve very little, and severely underestimate the major effects of switching to efficient, currently available technologies, says a new survey of Americans in 34 states. The study, which quizzed people on what they perceived as the most effective way to save energy, appears in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The largest group, nearly 20 percent, cited turning off lights as the best approach — an action that affects energy budgets relatively little. Very few cited buying decisions that experts say would cut U.S. energy consumption dramatically, such as more efficient cars (cited by only 2.8 percent), more efficient appliances (cited by 3.2 percent) or weatherizing homes (cited by 2.1 percent). Previous researchers have concluded that households could reduce their energy consumption some 30 percent by making such choices—all without waiting for new technologies, making big economic sacrifices or losing their sense of well-being.

Lead author Shahzeen Attari, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the university’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, said multiple factors probably are driving the misperceptions. “When people think of themselves, they may tend to think of what they can do that is cheap and easy at the moment,” she said. On a broader scale, she said, even after years of research, scientists, government, industry and environmental groups may have “failed to communicate” what they know about the potential of investments in technology; instead, they have funded recycling drives and encouraged actions like turning off lights. In general, the people surveyed tend to believe in what Attari calls curtailment. “That is, keeping the same behavior, but doing less of it,” she said. “But switching to efficient technologies generally allows you to maintain your behavior, and save a great deal more energy,” she said. She cited high-efficiency light bulbs, which can be kept on all the time, and still save more than minimizing the use of low-efficiency ones.

Previous studies have indicated that if Americans switched to better household and vehicle technologies, U.S. energy consumption would decline substantially within a decade. Some of the highest-impact decisions, consistently underrated by people surveyed, include driving higher-mileage vehicles, and switching from central air conditioning to room air conditioners. In addition to turning off lights, overrated behaviors included driving more slowly on the highway or unplugging chargers and appliances when not in use. In one of the more egregious misperceptions, according to the survey, people commonly think that using and recycling glass bottles saves a lot of energy; in fact, making a glass container from virgin material uses 40 percent more energy than making an aluminum one—and 2,000 percent more when recycled material is used.

Many side factors may complicate people’s perceptions. For instance, those who identified themselves in the survey as pro-environment tended to have more accurate perceptions. But people who engaged in more energy-conserving behaviors were actually less accurate — possibly a reflection of unrealistic optimism about the actions they personally were choosing to take. On the communications end, one previous study from Duke University has shown that conventional vehicle miles-per-gallon ratings do not really convey how switching from one vehicle to another affects gas consumption (contrary to popular perception, if you do the math, modest mileage improvements to very low-mileage vehicles will save far more gas than inventing vehicles that get astronomically high mileage). Also, said Attari, people typically are willing to take one or two actions to address a perceived problem, but after that, they start to believe they have done all they can, and attention begins to fade. Behavior researchers call this the “single-action bias.” “Of course we should be doing everything we can. But if we’re going to do just one or two things, we should focus on the big energy-saving behaviors,” said Attari. “People are still not aware of what the big savers are.”

[Photo above by Argonne National Laboratory / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Kevin Krajick @ The Earth Institute at Columbia University

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Going Green In The Hospital

There should be an image here!Wider adoption of the practice of recycling medical equipment — including laparoscopic ports and durable cutting tools typically tossed out after a single use — could save hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars annually and curb trash at medical centers, the second-largest waste producers in the United States after the food industry.

The recommendation, made in an analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers in the March issue of the journal Academic Medicine, noted that with proper sterilization, recalibration and testing, reuse of equipment is safe.

“No one really thinks of good hospitals as massive waste producers, but they are,” says lead author Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., a surgeon and associate professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There are many things hospitals can do to decrease waste and save money that they are not currently doing.”

Hospitals toss out everything from surgical gowns and towels to laparoscopic ports and expensive ultrasonic cutting tools after a single use. In operating rooms, some items that are never even used are thrown away — single-use devices that are taken out of their packaging must be tossed out because they could have been contaminated. Selecting such good devices for resterilization and retesting could decrease the amount of needless waste from hospitals.

And, the researchers say, hospitals could procure more items designed to be used safely more than once after being sterilized.

Hospitals, they add, are increasingly attracted to reprocessing because recycled devices can cost half as much as new equipment. Only about a quarter of hospitals in the United States used at least one type of reprocessed medical device in 2002, and while the number is growing, the practice is not yet widespread, they say. Banner Health in Phoenix, they write, saved nearly $1.5 million in 12 months from reprocessing operating room supplies such as compression sleeves, open but unused devices, pulse oximeters and more.

Safety concerns with reprocessing include possible malfunction of devices, the risk of transmitting infections, and the ethical dilemma that reprocessing presents given the absence of patient consent to usage of such devices in their treatment. The government requires all reprocessed equipment to be labeled as such, along with the name of the reprocessing company. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded reprocessed devices do not present an increased health risk over new devices.

“These devices are safe, but it’s a public relations challenge,” Makary says. “Some people don’t like the idea that they’re being treated with equipment that has been used before. But these reprocessed devices are as good as new since the testing standards for reuse are impeccable and there have been no patient safety problems in our analysis.”

Stephanie Desmon @ John Hopkins Medical Institutions

[Photo above by Szczur / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Montana State University Students Take Aim At Bear Spray Canisters

There should be an image here!Visitors to national parks and forests are encouraged to use bear spray when they encounter grizzlies, but disposing of the bear spray canisters is a problem that three Montana State University engineering students addressed for their senior capstone project, sponsored by the Gallatin National Forest.

Ashley Olsen, a Butte native who graduated from MSU in December, returned to campus Wednesday to demonstrate a bear spray recycling machine she developed over the past year with Seth Mott of Helena and Kyle Hertenstein of Great Falls.

As private and government partners watched the outdoor demonstration behind the Engineering and Physical Sciences Building, the recycler machine removed the chemical that burns the eyes and mucus membranes of bears. It also removed the refrigerant that propels the chemical out of the canisters. Then the students’ machine crushed the cans so they could be recycled normally with other metals. Processing three cans together took about 30 seconds.

“Good job,” one bystander said as the others cheered.

The demonstration had its glitches. When Olsen tried to remove the top of one canister, it exploded and sent her running with it to a Dumpster that holds hazardous waste. The air compressor didn’t have enough pressure at first, delaying the demonstration. Later, when the demonstration was under way, bear spray leaked out of the recycler, setting off some coughing spells among spectators.

All-in-all, the partners said they were pleased with the prototype.

Jane Ruchman, the Gallatin National Forest Developed Recreation Program Manager and Forest Landscape Architect, commissioned the project and bought all the materials for the MSU students. About two years ago, she approached the MSU School of Engineering with the proposal for the project, which was funded by the Forest Service. She said she was very pleased with the results.

“The students did an excellent job,” Ruchman said. “Now that they have completed the prototype, I hope that we can engage some local partners to take it to the next step so that we can recycle the canisters instead of disposing of them as hazardous waste.”

The National Forest advocates the use of bear spray as a defense against bears, especially grizzlies, Ruchman explained.

Whatever the outcome with the recycling machine, the partners said bear spray recycling is much needed.

“This has been a dream of mine for many years,” said Jim Evanoff, environmental protection specialist for Yellowstone National Park.

The park had 3.3 million visitors in 2009, with many of them carrying bear spray while in the park, Evanoff said. Some visitors turned the canisters in at visitor centers or the park gates when they left. Others threw the canisters into Dumpsters, which can create problems later. Every piece of garbage in the park ends up in a composting facility just outside of West Yellowstone. If a fork lift or backhoe accidentally runs over the canisters, the building has to be evacuated for several hours while the bear spray dissipates.

“It’s just a huge issue in this ecosystem,” Evanoff said.

Ruchman said some tourists throw bear spray canisters into garbage cans at area airports when they’re ready to board airplanes. Some people store the canisters until they’re too old to be effective. Bear spray is supposed to be disposed of as a hazardous waste, but some people just toss it, Ruchman added. If garbage collectors and landfill operators discover the canisters, they have to retrieve them and treat them as hazardous waste.

Chris Jenkins, head of MSU’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and back-up adviser for the bear spray project, said the recycler was one of many projects that students in his department completed during their senior year.

“I’m very proud of what our young engineers have been able to do on limited time and money,” he commented.

Olsen said she enjoyed working on the recycler.

“It was definitely interesting,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it when I started.”

Evelyn Boswell @ Montana State University

[Photo above by Kenny73116 / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Americans Favor Conservation, But Few Practice It

There should be an image here!Most Americans like the idea of conservation, but few practice it in their everyday lives, according to the results of a national survey released today by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

A majority of Americans say that it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to turn off unneeded lights (92 percent), to lower the thermostat in winter (83 percent), and to use public transportation or a carpool (73 percent), among other conservation behaviors. Yet the study found that:

  • 88 percent of Americans say it is important to recycle at home, but only 51 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 81 percent say it is important to use re-usable shopping bags, but only 33 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to buy locally grown food, but only 26 percent “often” or “always” do;
  • 76 percent say it is important to walk or bike instead of drive, but only 15 percent “often” or “always” do; and
  • 72 percent of Americans say it is important to use public transportation or carpool, but only 10 percent say they “often” or “always” do.

“There are many possible explanations for the gap between people’s attitudes and their actual behavior,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. “For example, public transportation may not be locally available or convenient. Overcoming barriers such as these will make it much easier for people to act in ways consistent with their values.”

The survey also found that approximately 33 percent of Americans in the past year rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products, while slightly less refused buying the products of companies that they perceive to be recalcitrant on the issue. Finally, 11 percent of Americans have contacted government officials in the past year about global warming, with seven in 10 urging officials to take action to reduce it.

“When it comes to taking a stand against global warming, concerned Americans are much more likely to take action through consumer purchases rather than as citizens,” said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. “This lack of citizen engagement may help to explain why Congress is being so timid in addressing climate change.”

The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, age 18 and older. The sample was weighted to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau parameters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities and conducted from December 24, 2009, to January 3, 2010, by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.

David DeFusco @ Yale University

[Photo above by Mary Beth Griffo Rigby / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Bottled Water Costs

Do you drink bottled water? Have you ever taken the time to calculate how much you spend on bottled water in any given month? I can’t put an exact number on it, but I know that it’s been a considerable sum here at Ranchero Indebto.

While there’s no question that bottled water is convenient, the costs quickly add up in out-of-pocket expenses and environmental impact. When you get right down to it, the bottled water companies are selling nothing, other than convenience. Rest assured, when they find a way to cheaply bottle air, they’ll be selling that too.

When I sat down at the computer this morning, there were two empty water bottles strewn about the desk. Apparantly, the overnight gremlins couldn’t be bothered to deposit their Poland Spring and Aquafina bottles in the recycling bin. (At least they were empty, and not partially full and leaking all over the desk.)

Months back, I took a simple step to reduce our bottled water costs, by buying a Brita filtered water pitcher. Refilling the pitcher was easy to do, at first, and it seemed like everyone pitched in … for a while. We saw our bottled water costs plunge during the time when we used the Brita pitcher enthusiastically. But eventually, enthusiasm waned.

Could it really take all that much effort to simply refill the pitcher? Is it really easier to haul a new case of bottle water home from the supermarket every week or so?

Best Buy To Test Recycling Program

Best Buy has announced a test program in which they plan on offering a recycling service to consumers to bring in their used appliances. The test program involves eight states and 117 stores to begin with. On their web site it states:

Starting June 1, 117 stores in the Baltimore, San Francisco, and
Minnesota markets are inviting customers to bring in no more than two
(2) units per day, per household, for recycling at no charge. Customers
can bring items such as televisions and monitors up to 32”, computers,
phones, cameras, and other electronics devices and peripherals in for


The following items cannot be accepted through this program:

  • Televisions or monitor screens greater than 32”
  • Console televisions
  • Air conditioners
  • Microwaves
  • Appliances (customers are invited instead to use Best Buy’s appliance haul-away and pick-up programs)


Best Buy will work with its stores, recycling partners, and
manufacturers to evaluate the success of the test and determine options
for scaling it across the U.S.

Check the Best Buy site for other recycling options available in all all of it’s stores.

Hopefully if this test program takes off, other retailers will join in to help to recycle the mountains of products that currently go into our landfills.

Comments welcome.


Printer Ink Cartridge Refill Reviews

Based on Dan’s post on HP Inkjet Printer Cartridges, we (naturally) received a handful of feedback. I haven’t used an inkjet in years, and was actually considering picking up a new laser printer before too long. 99% of what I print out is text, so black toner is fine for me. Most Gnomies likely have inkjets, however – so what William H. Heino, Sr. says might pertain to you:

“HP ink cartridges have warranties. When you get a bad ink cartridge, they give you another one. That’s the way a warranty works. When you buy a recycled ink cartridge, with no warranty, it may work momentarily. Why should my printer shut down after purchasing a recycled ink cartridge – only to work again when an HP ink cartridge is inserted? HP forces you, according to pre-determined usage, to buy their ink cartridges – or they’ll effectively shut your printer down. Hewlett Packard recycles their ink cartridges by promoting that HP cartridges be returned for recycling using a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Allowing HP, through their “refurbishing and reselling” effort to conserve resources, to use the various recycling facilities of manufacturers around the world contracted through HP. There are other recyclers available to refurbish and recycle ink cartridges, but HP has potentially restricted the consumer the full use and operation of HP printers.

I can see why William would be frustrated, but that’s the price you pay (literally) for buying and using an HP printer. If you don’t like the way HP plays ball, then they have plenty of competitors. Let your pocketbook do the talking, dude. Nobody’s forcing anybody to buy HP products in the first place. Of course, William’s feedback was based on our original HP Slaps Cartridge World With Patent Infringement article.
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