Thursday, January 24, 2013

LEDs Emerge as a Popular ‘Green’ Lighting

The lighting industry has finally come up with an energy-efficient replacement for the standard incandescent bulb that people actually seem to like: the LED bulb.Although priced at around 20 times more than the old-fashioned incandescents, bulbs based on LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, last much longer and use far less electricity, a saving that homeowners are beginning to recognize. Prices for the bulbs are falling steadily as retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s sell them aggressively and manufacturers improve the technology.

And because the light in LED bulbs comes from chips, companies have been able to develop software applications that let users control the bulbs, even change the color of the light, with tablets and smartphones. Apple sells a three-pack of such bulbs, made by Philips, with the hardware to operate them for about $200.

“You’re seeing all of your growth in the LED category,” said Brad Paulsen, a Home Depot merchant. “We absolutely expect LED technology in four or five years to be the most popular lighting technology that’s out there.”

Last year, LED sales, though small at about 3 percent of the residential market by some estimates, grew faster than those of any other lighting technology, according to retailers and analysts.

Among A-type bulbs, the most common, LEDs will outsell incandescents in North America in 2014, according to projections by IMS Research, an electronics research firm that is now part of IHS Inc. And LEDs will become the most popular A-type technology by 2016, with North American shipments reaching almost 370 million, a more than tenfold increase from the roughly 33 million shipped last year, the firm estimates.

Already at Philips, LEDs were responsible for 20 percent of lighting sales last year, according to Ed Crawford, general manager of the lamps division.

Incandescent bulbs, while cheap, are very inefficient, wasting most of their energy as heat as they pump electricity into filaments to make them glow. The government has been pushing consumers to other technologies for several years, in part by phasing out the manufacture or import of the least efficient bulbs.

The first big alternative to emerge, compact fluorescent bulbs, has left many consumers dissatisfied. The light quality is seen as harsher, the bulbs can be slow to warm up and difficult to dim, and they contain toxic materials.

LEDs are more expensive, but offer better light quality and more flexibility. And thanks to heavy marketing by retailers, customers are beginning to discover their appeal.

“The LED you buy, even though you pay even $25 or $30, it’ll last like nine or 10 years,” said Tariq Syed, a machinist at an electrical utility who was eyeing LEDs at the Home Depot in Vauxhall, N.J., on Thursday. “And environmentally, it’s safe, too.”

Bulb manufacturers are rushing into the market, sending prices falling. Home Depot sells some 40-watt-equivalent bulbs for about $10.

“Most of the manufacturers are moving toward new designs in solid state lighting, as are we,” said Jim Crowcroft, vice president for market development at TCP, a company based outside Cleveland that manufactures energy-efficient lighting under its own brand as well as the house brands of several mass retailers.

Although the company still sells far more compact fluorescent lights, growth in that business has slowed, while demand for LEDs is skyrocketing, he said. “In the long run, solid-state lighting is going to make a whole lot of sense for almost every lighting application.”

For the manufacturers, LEDs pose a new challenge. They offer higher profit margins, but because they can last for decades, people will be buying fewer bulbs — of any sort. The Energy Information Administration estimates that total light bulb sales will fall by almost 40 percent by 2015, to just under a billion from 1.52 billion bulbs, and continue their decline to about 530 million by 2035, with LEDs making up a steadily increasing portion of the market.

As a result, many companies are competing to establish themselves as popular brands.

“The company that can dominate will make a lot of money,” said Philip Smallwood, senior lighting market analyst at IMS Research. “So it’s a big push to get into it early.”

With demand growing for LEDs in other uses — like backlighted phone and computer screens, automotive lights and street lamps — manufacturers have been able to develop their technologies and benefit from economies of scale to help bring the price down, said Thomas J. Pincince, the chief executive of Digital Lumens, which sells LED systems to businesses.

In the commercial and industrial sector, use of LEDs is more common than in homes, analysts say, because companies are more likely to do the long-term cost-benefit analysis of buying lighting than homeowners, who are still largely driven by the upfront price.

Goldman Sachs estimates that in the residential sector, penetration of LEDs will rise from 3 percent last year to 16 percent in 2015, still lagging the commercial and industrial sector as well as outdoor applications like parking lots and billboards.

But as the cost of an LED approaches $10 — a tipping point that would speed mass adoption, according to Mr. Smallwood — retailers have been stepping up their efforts to market the lights, often with proprietary brands like Home Depot’s EcoSmart jostling for shelf space with established names like Philips and General Electric.

“One day I randomly walked into a Home Depot and thought, ‘LED — when did that happen?’ ” said Clayton Morris, 36, a host of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” who was buying the bulbs in Vauxhall as part of his project to slowly replace the incandescents in his Maplewood home. “It’s a hefty investment upfront,” he said, “but it just seemed like a great savings.”

At the same time, in an effort to transform light bulbs from a cheap, disposable product into something that consumers might show off to their friends, manufacturers have been adding functions that could ultimately fit into a larger home automation system. Often Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled, a new generation of LED bulbs offers all manner of new remote controls and automatic responses. The Philips Hue, sold exclusively at Apple stores for the next month, can change colors along a broad spectrum and offers settings that can mimic sunrise in the morning or use a special “light recipe” intended to raise energy levels. The bulb has been a big hit, executives say, attracting a host of software developers who have created free apps for new features, like making it respond to voices or music. The bulb can also tie into the Nest thermostat, a so-called smart device from Apple alumni who helped develop the iPod, that learns consumer heating and cooling patterns and adjusts to them automatically.

“For me, it was, ‘Wow, this is really cool, this is piece of futuristic technology that I could have,’ ” said Jonathan Crosby, 25, who works at an Apple store in the Bay Area and learned about the Hue because of all the customers asking about it. He bought starter kits for himself and an uncle, purchases he might not have made without the hefty employee discount.

The bulbs, he said, offer a hint of the lifestyle of people like Bill Gates of Microsoft, who lives in a house loaded with high-tech conveniences. “It’s amazing, like the futuristic Bill Gates is now me,” Mr. Crosby said.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Beach games:

Keep Your Bottle
This game is particularly good at family parties or with mixed age groups, and is definitely a warm weather, outdoor game! A great game for a large beach party.

The Splash Game
Not for the faint-hearted, this game is best played out of doors when clothes don't really matter! It works with mixed family age-groups if everyone who takes part is a good sport, and will cause much hilarity..

Ping Pong Ball Race
Dig a series of sloping channels wide enough (and smooth enough) to take a ping pong ball. Make them equal length, or have slightly longer channels for older children and adults. Place a ping pong ball at one end and then race each other blowing the ball down the channel to the finish line.

Beach Mini Golf
Make your own mini golf course in the sand. Players take turns with a plastic golf club and ball - or whatever you have to hand that you can improvise with.

Get the Frisbee out and challenge the family to a game.
Set up some targets in the sand and see who can throw the Frisbee nearest to them.
Set up some "bottles" (plastic, please!) in the sand, and see who can knock them over.
Play Frisbee golf. Make your own devious course in the sand and take it in turns to complete a "hole", which might be a circle marked out in the sand. Perhaps you will have to go around the picnic basket to get there?
Just throwing a Frisbee back and forth between players can be enough to keep children entertained for a good long while

Beach Volleyball
Some beaches have a proper volleyball court but it is often monopolised by older children and young adults. If there is space on the beach you can always set up your own version, improvising with windbreaks, picnic baskets or a portable badminton net. Make up your own rules, too.

French cricket
French Cricket is a very popular game with older children and teenagers, but it is fun in a family gathering too. You need at least 6 players for a good game, and a fairly large space to play.

Bowls (boules, petanque)
It is definitely worth investing in a set of plastic bowls for a day at the beach, especially if you are going with a mixed age-group - it seems to be a game that grandparents particularly enjoy! Or improvise your own: you will need 4 pairs of matching balls in an appropriate size for your children, as well as a small ball to act as the target.


Monday, January 7, 2013

UN emphasises ‘vital role’ of sustainable tourism

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution that recognises sustainable tourism as hugely influential in the battles against poverty and environmental protection.

The resolution, titled Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection, was accepted unanimously by members, meaning the usual protocol of voting for resolutions was redundant.

The resolution highlights how sustainable tourism has a “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger”, and comes after the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) revealed that over a billion tourists crossed international borders in 2012 – a new annual record.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon had previously outlined the important role of sustainable tourism on World Tourism Day in September.

UNWTO, the agency responsible for the development of sustainable tourism within the UN, has applauded the resolution’s passing.

“UNWTO welcomes the adoption of this resolution on the importance of ecotourism”, said secretary-general, Taleb Rifai.

“The remarkable support that the resolution has received, from all regions and across the development spectrum, is a clear testimony that sustainable tourism has a vital role to play in a fairer and sustainable future for all.”

The resolution has been adopted following a report produced by the UNWTO called Tourism in the Green Economy. Its acceptance now means the organisation will have to publish a follow-up when the General Assembly meets in 2014.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Go To It! Reduce Your Water Footprint

Depleting aquifers. This phrase should strike your heart with fear. It does mine…after I learned its meaning while readingTaking on Water by Wendy J. Pabich. Wendy, a devoted ecologist, educates us on our global water crisis and shares her journey of reducing her water footprint and conserving our precious resource.

In case you’re like me and are completely, blissfully unaware of the monstrous damage we are doing to our water supply, here are some factoids:
Globally, 12 percent of people lack access to safe water supplies.
An American taking a 5-minute shower (mine average 15 minutes) uses more water than an impoverished person in a developing country uses in an entire day. (Shame on me.)
While three-quarters of Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 1 percent of its water is available for human use.
Water is sensitive — the improper disposal of just one oil change can contaminate a million gallons of water!

Back to the depleting aquifers. An aquifer is a “permeable, water-bearing stratum of rock, sand or gravel.” Currently, we are sucking our aquifers dry by withdrawing water faster than it can be replenished. Cue visions of a dystopian young adult novel landscape.

In Taking on Water, Pabich hilariously and painstakingly calculates her water footprint, determining just how much water she uses doing everything. From eating a pizza (mozzarella contributes 235 gallons of water per pizza) to how much electricity she consumes.

I could go on, but why write what the author has already and in better words than I? I encourage you to pick up a local copy (to reduce the water footprint of having it shipped) so you can read for yourself the enlightening story of how we use water and the steps we can take to conserve it.

My immediate challenge was not just reducing my water use, but reducing my water use as a city-dwelling renter. I don’t have the option of replacing my toilet or dishwasher with a low-flow model. I don’t even have a dishwasher (and by the way, hand-washing dishes uses way more water). I don’t have a yard where I can direct gray water or collect rain.

  • But, I can be more conscious of how I’m using water. Here are some of Pabich’s conservation tips (with my own notes added):
  • When washing dishes, plug the sink and fill it up with water, which I use to soak and rinse dirty dishes. Only fill the sink up a third of the way so it fills as you rinse your soapy dishes clean with running water.
  • Don’t turn the faucet on all the way. I have a horrible habit of washing my hands in a gushing stream of water when, really, a third of the pressure would do the job just fine.
  • Take fewer showers. Even if you just skip a shower on the day you stay home and relax, you’re helping.
  • Don’t buy bottled water! Too many resources go into creating it, and tap water hydrates the same way.
  • Eat less meat. (Done.)
  • Waste less food. (There’s always something in the back of the fridge that I forget about, so I have to be extra conscious about this.)
  • Conserve energy. (Why wouldn’t I want to lower my utility bill?)
  • Be a responsible consumer — reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Be wary of the sprinkler. (No backyard. Points for me.)
  • Get rid of your lawn. (Major points for me.)
  • Fix leaks. (Just added “call super” to my to-to list.)
  • Use a water-efficient washing machine and run it full. (My laundromat is close, and I’m sticking with it.)
  • Replace traditional toilets with low-flow models. (Sorry, my landlord doesn’t cover this.)
  • Use a water-efficient dishwasher rather than hand-washing, and run it full. (Nor will he install a dishwasher).
  • Install aerators on your faucets. (Planning to look into this.)
  • Turn off the shower when you lather and the sink faucet when you brush. (I’ve got the brushing covered, but there’s no way I’m turning off my shower in the middle of it. I’ll just shower less often and faster.)

So, Go To It! I challenge you to reduce your water footprint, save electricity, and save money.

Marketing your Ecotourism Business


An ecotourism business cannot succeed without effective marketing. Market
research will allow you to establish pricing, distribution and promotional
strategies for your ecotourism product or service. In order to create your marketing plan, you need to:
• Define your Market – Define the total ecotourism market in terms of
size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales potential. As
already discussed, refer to published statistics available from Fáilte Ireland,
Tourism Ireland or the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Then define
your target market, which is your chosen segment of the overall market

• Project your Market Share – Estimate the size of the target market
you plan to capture. For example, you may estimate that your business will capture 30% of tourists visiting your region, who are seeking an ecotourism health and wellness experience.

• Analyse the competition – List the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor and compare your product or service to theirs. Define your competitive advantages. They can be as simple as having a small library on responsible travel available for your guests to a gourmet welcome hamper full of locally produced food for their first evening meal.


• Once you have projected a reasonable market share you will now need to outline how your ecotourism business will achieve that share, through a marketing and sales strategy. Set out your promotion plan, or a list of points
which show how you will sell your product or service. Take account of
what your competitors are doing, and how they are getting publicity.
Which publications are they in, and which ones would you like to be in? How quickly can you find them on a search engine and what’s different about their websites?

• Show what the price of your product or service will be. The price charged
must be enough to cover costs and make a profit. It must also be competitive, taking into account the quality of your product or service as well as your competitors’ prices.