Europe has long led the way in climate change research, environmental impact studies, and most importantly, environmentally friendly technology advances that cut carbon emissions, save valuable energy resources, and prevent humans from permanently altering Earth’s biosphere in a way that’s bad for it, for the creatures that inhabit it, and for us.
Sometimes, however, this enthusiasm for green technology gets a little… weird. Some Europeans, it seems, are willing to try just about anything to save a little energy here and there, cut reliance on coal and gas, and save the environment a little bit.
For example, there is a firm based in Stockholm, Sweden that plans to harness the body heat of daily commuters (there are almost a quarter of a million of them daily) to lower the energy cost of heating a large nearby office building. The technology seems viable, and the firm plans to replicate it elsewhere, if it can find the buyers.
Let’s Go Fly a Kite
A 10,000 ton freighter in Bremerhaven, a port on the German coast, needed to be towed out to see where it could take over and move on its own power. Normally, this task is accomplished almost entirely by gas-burning tugboats. In this instance, however, the crew got creative, and rigged a giant kite to harness the wind and help pull the ship out of the harbor and into the sea. That’s not to say that the tugboats were entirely unnecessary, but it just goes to show how far Europeans will go to save a little energy here and there.
A Funeral – For Waste
Sometimes, that obsession with energy savings can turn a little macabre. A funeral home in England proposed back in 2008 to recycle heat from the furnaces in the basement–yes, the ones used in the cremation of your deceased relatives–to warm the chapel on the premises of the funeral home. They actually got the go-ahead from sixteen local officials, and the plan has so far worked out–though it has no doubt been the subject of some significant controversy. But I guess that’s just to be expected.
A Culture of Creativity
Karl Sudnholm of Jernhusen, the Swedish company harnessing the body heat of commuters, made a telling point when he said that they were sitting around trying to come up with ways to save energy. When they hit upon the body heat idea, the board of directors said ‘go ahead. Why not?’ This in contrast to boards of directors elsewhere in the world, who are wary of the profitability of such ventures. But Europe is determined to go green, whatever it takes–even if it doesn’t make quite as many euros as dirty energy does.
No, a ‘dung generator’ is not a cow–though they do generate quite a bit of dung. On the contrary, this dung generator is the brainchild of a Welsh farmer, who is currently fundraising the $2 million he needs to make his dream a reality.
The dung generator would power not only his farm, but also several hundred homes in a town not far from where he lives and works. The farmer owns over 500 cows, and he plans to use their dung to power the generator. That’s certainly plenty of fuel–but I’d be worried about the smell. Hopefully you’re not downwind of the power plant.
All great ideas seem a little weird when they’re first conceived. But Europe has proven time and time again that they are willing to embrace those weird ideas, on the off chance that they might be the next big thing. But we’re still waiting to see what that next big thing will be. Hopefully it will be a little more inspiring than a generator run on cow poop.