April 4, 2016

This Classroom Stationary Bike Generates Electricity From Kids Who Pedal As They Learn

Kids like to move while they read. Now they can create some energy with their extra energy.

A desk isn’t necessarily the best place to learn. For some students–especially those with ADHD–squirming is a good thing. If a child can move a little bit while they read, they’ll actually remember more information.

A few schools have started running Read and Ride programs, where kids sit on stationary bikes and get a little exercise as they read a book. A school in North Carolina that added a classroom full of bikes found that by the end of a school year, the children who’d spent the most time on the bikes had higher reading scores.

A new bike takes Read and Ride a step farther. While students ride, the pedaling also generates a little electricity, enough to charge a tablet or phone or send a little power back into the grid. “It ticks all these different boxes–health, sustainability, education,” says Adam Boesel, designer of the Green Microcycle.

Boesel first started designing power-generating bikes as a gym owner, so his spinning classes could help offset a little of the electricity the building used. Schools soon started asking for child-sized bikes they could use as a way to help students learn about science and technology.

“You can teach about the transfer of energy. You can teach about renewable energy; how much energy it really takes to make 100 watts,” he says. “Which is all great stuff. But then what I got really excited about was sensory breaks for active learners.”

After shipping some bikes to schools around the country, Boesel had a chance to deliver one to a local school. “I was actually able to go in and see how it was used,” he says. “One of the first things that happened was the special education teacher approached me and said, ‘you know this is really fantastic for some of the kids who have either a lot of extra energy or some other stuff going on, where they can just climb on the bike and focus.’”

The latest version of the bike, under development now, includes a book stand so it can double as both a science education tool and part of a Read and Ride program. And, of course, it’s also a way for kids–who sit an average of 8.5 hours a day–to get some exercise.

Boesel’s five-year-old son, Charlie, is testing the latest prototype. “He just jumps on there a lot,” he says. “Sometimes he’s just absentmindedly pedaling and talking. Most of the time he has his iPad. He’s on [the bike] all the time. As opposed to where he used to be, which was on the couch, hunched over . . . It’s nice to have him moving around more.”

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3058307/this-classroom-stationary-bike-generates-electricity-from-kids-who-pedal-as-they-learn

March 15, 2016

An hour of darkness

Earth Hour, celebrated on March 19, is an annual event that was first started nine years ago in Sydney, Australia by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It has since spread to cities all over the world and takes place every year in late March.

Its purpose is to encourage people to turn off their lights for one hour, between 8:30pm and 9:30pm, in an effort to raise awareness about climate change. The lights have also been turned off on famous monuments all over the world, such as Times Square in New York, the Great Pyramids of Giza, and the CN Tower.

Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the campaign. Bjørn Lomborg, a Danish environmentalist who is also the author ofThe Skeptical Environmentalist, has been one of Earth Hour’s fiercest critics. In an op-ed that Lomborg wrote for Slate, he called the campaign out for being “a colossal waste of time.”

Lomborg argues that Earth Hour disregards how reliant our society has become on electricity and points to how electricity has improved people’s lives when it comes to food preservation, heating homes, and agriculture — things that many of the world’s poor cannot enjoy.

The organizers, however, say that Earth Hour actually “embraces technology.”

“Technology is key to a sustainable future that is aspirational,” reads a part of Earth Hour’s FAQ. “From LED lights, to hybrid vehicles, to developing replacements for unsustainable use of resources — Earth Hour has thrived off the back of the development in digital technology.”

The event has been criticized by those who argue that the campaign is nothing more than a feel-good slacktivist campaign that has little to no impact on protecting the environment.

The organizers of Earth Hour acknowledge that the campaign is symbolic, and they encourage a “commitment to change beyond the hour.” In addition, they say that the focus of the event is not about saving energy during the hour since the amount of energy saved is not recorded.

The energy saved during Earth Hour in Ontario is minimal at best. In 2012, 56.4 per cent of Ontario’s electricity came from nuclear power, which considered a low-carbon form of power generation. Another 22.3 per cent came from hydroelectricity, and natural gas provided 14.6 per cent of the province’s energy output. Since Ontario phased out the use of coal in 2014, natural gas is the only fossil fuel that the province uses as a source of energy.

The attention, however, still seems to be fixated on the actual hour. Toronto Hydro sets a target of 10 per cent reduction in electricity usage during Earth Hour. The media often focuses on the images of monuments across the world which are shrouded in darkness over the hour. They highlight Toronto Hydro’s report on how much energy was saved during the course of the event.

Participation in Earth Hour seems to be declining. According to Toronto Hydro, Earth Hour 2009 saw a 15 per cent reduction in electricity usage. In 2015, there was only a 3.5 per cent drop. In addition, British Columbia only saw a reduction of 0.2 per cent, while Nova Scotia saw a reduction of 0.3 per cent.

Earth Hour has the potential to be used as a stepping stone for real progress when it comes to climate change but simply raising awareness can only go so far. Interest in Earth Hour is waning and the organizers also need to go “beyond the hour,” in order to reinvigorate the campaign.

http://thevarsity.ca/2016/03/14/an-hour-of-darkness/

March 7, 2016

Toronto Hydro announces rate increase for 2016

An electricity meter is seen in this undated photo.

Toronto residents can expect to spend a few dollars more each month for electricity this year.

In December, Toronto Hydro announced it would increase its rates in 2016, a move expected to cost the average homeowner an estimated $40 more on electricity per year.

On Monday, the energy provider released the details of the rate hike, which came into effect March 1.

According to the release, a customer using 800 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month can expect to pay $6.71 per month or about $80 a year more than they did in 2015.

The Ontario Energy Board has given Toronto Hydro permission to raise rates in the city every year until 2019 and approved $2 billion in capital funding to help improve service and reliability.

Toronto Hydro estimates that electricity rates will go up by an average of $2.44 per month or 1.7 per cent during that time.

However, rates did not change in 2015, so the 4.7 per cent increase for 2016 combines rate hikes for both years.

Toronto Hydro says the average bill currently comes to about $165, including taxes. According to the company’s estimates, that charge will be just over $172 by 2019.

The energy provider says it is using the rate increases to fund improvements to its aging infrastructure.

Toronto’s energy grid is the oldest in the province with approximately 40 per cent of all power outages in the city caused by defective equipment.

With files from Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Paul Bliss

http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/mobile/toronto-hydro-announces-rate-increase-for-2016-1.2807319