This week at TreeHugger: Motorola became the first cellphone company to make all of its cellphone chargers Energy Star certified. Ever on the cutting edge of alternative energy and transportation at work, Google offered its 2,000 employees in Europe, Africa and Asia a free folding bike and accompanying helmet, complete with identifying logo, though you can now get yours on eBay. Though it sounds like an oxymoron, a green supercomputer was unveiled this week in Scotland that uses 10 times less energy and is 300 times faster than its more conventional equivalents. Lastly, on April 1, TreeHugger Labs discovered that electromagnetic fields generated by power lines are responsible for the "electrobonsai effect", causing trees to conspicuously grow away from them in a bonsai-like formation.
Motorola has become the first cellphone company to make all of its cell phone chargers Energy Star certified, meaning they use appreciably less energy than other conventional chargers. At first it doesn't sound like too big a deal, but when the EPA added up the effects that a 40 percent increase in charger efficiency would have, it came to well over 1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. There's a lot of cellphones in this country, and if every company took the same steps that Motorola now has, we would save enough energy to light 760,000 homes for a year.
Between their ginormous solar arrays and using biofuels to power their buses, Google has become pretty well known around TreeHugger HQ for their commitment to support alternative energy and transportation. This past week, they added another notch in the bedpost by offering its 2,000 employees in Europe, Africa and Asia a Google-branded German Raleigh folding bike, the Dahon Curve, along with a helmet (safety first!). Though you have to be a non-North or South American Google employee to get one for free, you just have to be a savvy Internet surfer to get one; they appeared on eBay about as fast as an ungrateful employee can ride one.
The computing powerhouse that is the country of Scotland has developed pretty neat little gadget: a green supercomputer. Although the phrase may be something of an oxymoron, the machine does consume 10 times less energy and is 300 times faster than its more traditional equivalents. The computer's name is Maxwell, and he operates in less space and runs much more coolly than equivalent machines. He's pretty difficult to program right now (probably because he's using "field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) in place of conventional microprocessors"), and solving this communication problem will take another two to three years. But after that, he will be on the force, solving a variety of problems from the oil and gas industries, among others.
Lastly, there has been much discussion at TreeHugger about the danger of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by cellphones, routers, microwave ovens and power lines. TreeHugger Labs wanted to determine this once and for all, and has spent the past year studying the issue. In a study released on April 1, we were surprised to find that maple trees growing up under power lines were profoundly influenced by the lines. They tended to develop a bifurcated "Y" formation as the limbs seemed to grow away from the lines themselves. We call this effect "electrobonsai," and it's everywhere. Judging from the average distance of limbs from power lines, (about eight feet) we have concluded that it is probably prudent to keep transformers, routers, cellphones and hair dryers a good eight feet from your head at all times.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.