Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Lions of renewable energy!

The western Indian state of Gujarat is all set to become the first state in the country to generate solar power through panels mounted on a water body. Installation of panels on the canal will help in doing away with the need to acquire land. Evaporation of lakhs of litres of water will be prevented since the canal will be covered. And will generate clean energy. Generated solar power will be supplied to villages alongside the canal, which will lead to lower transmission losses aiding rural development. 

A great pioneering effort in renewable energy that will hopefully lead the way for future innovations! 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Saving water in the kitchen

I want to write a small post about an ingenious shower head that can be fitted to most kitchen sinks, allowing for water to sprinkle down rather than gush out of the tap.  I have installed one in my kitchen sink one of the taps and I have not regretted it since.  I bought the device at my local Nilgiris store after reading about it in the Hindu paper, and since then have noticed it in several other kitchen of friends and relatives.  It saves water because it allows for the water to 'rain' over a larger area than the tap's debit stream, thus allowing you to rinse vessels and plates much more quickly, thereby reducing the time that the tap is open.  It's great!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lets lay some roads!

The invention has taken place...
The innovation has been explored and is ready to be executed...
What’s next?

The Hindu : NATIONAL / TAMIL NADU : Plastic collection on Wednesdays

The ingenious, resourceful contrivance of using plastics in the laying of roads is now facing a peculiar and unexpected snag. Believe it or not… The process has come to a screeching halt due to the lack of (usable) shredded plastic!

The answer to this rather unbelievable problem lies in the hands of the everyday consumer. The corporation of Chennai has now decided to go door-to-door collecting daily usage plastics specially, thin carry bags. They have declared every Wednesday as plastic collection day. The local conservancy staff will travel in tricycles around the city collecting plastics from houses and small businesses.

They have further initiated various educational institutions to be a part of this drive. The students are encouraged to carry waste plastics from their homes and neighborhoods to school on Wednesdays, which will then be collected by the conservancy staff of that area.
This initiative in the process of enabling a crucial innovative will also help promotes healthier household habits.

Lets remember… Wednesdays are plastic collection days!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Paving plastone blocks, a great alternative to Cement!

Here is another great invention from scientists in Madurai!  Traditional cement blocks of red and grey colour have been used to pave parking areas, and recently entire street in Puducherry, but more commonly for private roads and walkways.  Cement is a carbon intensive product, requiring large quantities of heat in its production.  Researchers from Thiagaraj College of Engineering in Madurai have devised a new block called the Plastone which combines recycled plastics and stone to make a block that is much stronger than its cement equivalent but also non-porous, thus doing away with the ills that affects traditional cement blocks.  Cement blocks tend to give way when heavy loads such as trucks roll over them, as well as water seepage during monsoon seasons which undermines the traditional sand foundation of the blocks, leading to potholes.

What's more, the plastone uses up to 30% waste plastics in its fabrication, mainly plastic bags and PET bottles.  According to the scientists, it may even be possible to make plastones using recycled e-waste, mainly the plastic boards on which the electronic circuitry is embedded.  This could a real bonanza, as e-waste is a major plight of modern society.  Three cheers for this ingenious indigenous sustainable product and its creators! (Original article: The Hindu)

PLastones use 30% plastic waste and stone, they can even be made with recycled e-waste!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Lowering the carbon foot-print of Cement!

Here is another interesting development from cement manufacturers in Karnataka.  Traditional cement manufacturing involves the process of converting limestone into clinker in a blast furnace.  Clinker makes up 95% of cement.  The article quotes that "in order to produce 1 tonne of clinker  1.5 tonnes of  limestones is needed and in the process 0.5 tonnes of CO2 is released [in the atmosphere]".

Green cement replaces 50% of clinker with slag, a waste product from steel blast furnace.  Apart from reducing CO2 emissions by half, green cement also has the advantage of being much more resistnt than traditional cement, especially along coastal environments!  It is also cleaner for the environment in that the slag production from steel plants can be recycled as well as limestone resources preserved.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Biodegradable plastic bin bags now in India!

This is one product I have been wanting to blog about for a while now.  Yesterday I ventured back to my local Nilgiris store where I originally discovered it.... and what a discovery!  Nevertheless, these are hard to come by, I had to remove half the shelf's content to find it.  In an era where more and more people are saying "No to plastics!" this product is a welcome sustainable alternative!

These are biodegradable plastic bags from Indian bin bag manufacturer Plastobag from Bangalore (email: plastobag at  They even have a facebook page.  This is one product I strongly recommend, and I am going to bury one of their bags in a spare flower pot on my terrace to see if it really decomposes and after which I will plant a seed to see if plants are affected. 

The bags come in a handy roll with perforated separation to easily detach them, as well as the very handy tie tapes (in white in the photo below) which allows the maid to securely seal the bag and prevent them from being sniffed out by stray dogs and cats and their contents spilled out in the street!

I use these bags to line my rubbish bin where I segregate food waste from plastic, paper and other non-recyclable waste.  I know that in the end it all gets mixed again in the dumper truck, but at least my bio bag will decompose in the land fill and after a few years, only the recyclable-waste will remain, or at least that is the theory!  I have tried, without success so far, to get my local bin explorer who sorts out the plastics and other recyclable waste from the street dump, to accept my dry waste, as I figure it would be a lot more pleasant and efficient for him to sort out what he can resell from a bin that does not smell of decomposing waste.  However, last I approached him he was very happy to accept, maybe because someone paid attention to him (?), but he has not made it into a habit to come back for more.  It would be great if we could organise such people to collect pre-sorted waste from local houses and flat.  They render such a great service to the neighbourhood and the environment but often with such lack of respect from the community.  allowing them to sort through dry waste would also give them back some humanity.  Let's see if a little aspiration, a prayer to Hanuman, and some dedication can

Friday, 10 February 2012

Sustainable roofing.

I remember my early youth living in a thatched roof house in Auroville.  The rain and wind always felt so much more closer and inspiring.  Thatched huts on the beach are another memorable image in my memory.  Somehow, the feeling of relaxation and soothing effect of the surf on the sand and the sea breeze whistling through the hut is so much more holistic an experience than a concrete house on the beach which has a greater effect of sealing you indoors than the thatched walls and roof of a hut.

This article is a nice remainder that even in a city you can have your thatched roof on your terrace giving you opportunities to sleep outdoors in the hot season.  A very sustainable alternative to tile roofs, especially when you consider the very people who are engaged in the making it possible, the rural employment in cutting, drying and weaving coconut palm leaves, as well as the artisans that construct the roof, all a know-how that would be sad to loose if we fail to promote this industry.

I certainly will opt for a thatch roof when I start building my house!  But even if you live in a flat, why not convince your community to get one on top of the block?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sustainable growth in business enterprise

This article is a good outline of what sustainable enterprise needs to aspire to.  It is a little thin on concrete steps, but nonetheless outlines the essence in a well written article.
What is sustainable growth for a business?  The article emphasizes the need to look beyond the shareholders paradigm of modern corporate business.  It is a most common practice for corporate business today to concentrate their efforts on maximising shareholders' returns, ie the mantra being "profit, profit, profit!".  Unfortunately this is too often at the expense of other stakeholders.  These ranging for the environment, to the society.  Even the employees are not spared in certain companies.

The article lists the need for all stakeholders to be nurtured and their best interest taken into account for the growth to be sustainable.  The upshot of this is long term growth and a strong foundation.  The article list these stakeholders as being the shareholders, the employees, the suppliers, the clients and the community.  I would add that the environment as an important stakeholder, for even those companies that do not have a direct effect on the environment, are nonetheless a responsibility to lower their carbon foot-print, their water consumption, their waste production and so on.

Another interesting point the author makes is the genuine need to recognise merit and reward good leaders in a company for they are the ones that will have the vision and inspiration to contribute fresh ideas for growth and competitiveness.

Sustainable growth in the enterprise needs to encompass all stakeholders... not just the shareholders!

In the words of the great man himself

I have always admired President Kalam for his style, his contribution to India's rocket program, his stature as an international statesman, but most profoundly for his magnanimous recognition of merit when he could have so easily taken the route of countless self-serving civil servants.  His recognition of merit, from the lowest order of the chain to the highest, regardless of gender, creed or religious belief, comes, I believe, from a deep belief of being born to serve India, I would even say to serve Mother India.   I summarise his attitude as "Ask not what India can do for you, but rather what you can do for India", which is the inspiration behind this blog's sub-heading above.

Dr. Kalam launched his own effort to combat corruption in India by appealing to the youth with the following question "What can I give to India?"  What a beautiful approach to the problem!
President Dr. Kalam in his inimitable style!


Apple, sweet looking products, ardent fan following, child of tech-guru Steve Jobs... now no more.  Can Apple survive without Jobs?  The million dollars question that so many pundits have analysed and written about. 
Over the last decade, I have read countless articles about the great man and his products as well as his business savvy exploits in trumping the competition over and over again with all sorts of beautiful products.  Recently I started my own enterprise and my mother gifted me Jobs's biography for Christmas in the hope that I too could emulate this great man's achievement.  However, as this recent article suggests, not all is rosy in Apple-land.  The article reveals the very unsustainable practice that Apple has used in order to build its empire.  Yes they have made loads of cash, yes their stock market listing valuates them above the GDP of Switzerland, yes they have an ardent fan base following who swears only by Apple...but, can it endure?  I reckon not! 
As the world becomes more integrated, more connected, more transparent, there is growing disquiet among consumers that their hard earned money fuels pain, dishonesty and unfair business practices.  Apple is all set to gain in the short term and its fall is still not visible, but on the long run you have to question the impact of its non-sustainable practices... unless it cleans up its act, which it may very well do, but given their technological philosophy when it comes to building closed systems, it will invariably be just plaster over the cracks.

So I predict that Apple will eventually go down.  Beautiful products nonetheless!

Apple sweatshop factory in China!
Mind you, there is one more interesting aspect to this article, and that is the length to which Chinese workers are ready to dedicate their time and energy to their work, however meager the returns and harsh the conditions.  Something in total contrast to the west which deplores such kind of working conditions... no wonder the Chinese are set to take over the US as the number uno economy in 2016!  Chinese will have earned it the hard way.  It is estimated that half a million US jobs are lost to China every year.  The US capitalism's  relentless quest for lowering production cost in their all out globalisation doctrine has driven them to this point.