September 30, 2008

California signs green chemistry bills

California's version of European chemical regulation REACH (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances) might come to town sooner than later by the indication of new Green Chemistry bills, SB 509 and AB 1879, signed yesterday by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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The rise and fall of mercury

The use of mercury could slowly die out as Europe and the US recently passed a ban to export one of the most infamous element in chemical history.

Yesterday, the US Congress approved the Mercury Market Minimization Act of 2008, which would ban the export of elemental mercury, prohibit federal agencies from selling or distributing mercury; and direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide permanent storage for domestic stocks of mercury under certain conditions.

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September 29, 2008

Agencies place melamine measures

The Chinese melamine scare has spread far and wide across the globe (proving the powerful reach of China-made products) and so the European Commission announced several measures last week to protect Europeans from melamine-contaminated milk (and other melamine-contaminated products).

The Commission banned all China-sourced products for infants and young children that contain any percentage of milk even though food operators assure that such milk products have not been imported into the European Union.

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Unsealing Green Seal

Lots of news going on concerning the soap and detergent industry. The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) sent a press release a couple of days ago about their objections on a revised environmental standard for industrial and institutional (I&I) cleaners developed and published by the non-profit green certification company Green Seal.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention in the revised standards called GS-37 (about 20 pages long):
  • The prohibition of phthalates and alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs).
  • Content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was limited to 1% by weight for glass and ready-to-use carpet cleaners.
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September 26, 2008

Weekly News Roundup

I've been juggling several work loads recently (and expecting more next week) so I apologize to the green blog readers if my posts seem to be sparse these past few days. The good news is most of the stories I am working on (three stories right now) is all focusing on green.

Watch out for my sustainable packaging story and the green movement in Japan. I'll also post about ongoing green R&D developments at Rhodia's (a specialty chemical company) research center in Bristol, Pennsylvania.

For now, here's this week's green news roundup:

Bioplastic's best friends
Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will collaborate with PolyOne to develop biobased plasticizers from corn and oilseeds. Plasticizers are used to make plastics softer and more flexible.

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No plastic bag ban for Wal-Mart

Much to the relief of the chemical and plastic manufacturing community, the big box retailer giant Wal-Mart opts to reduce, reuse and recycle instead of implementing plastic shopping bag bans.

Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced its goal to reduce its global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33% per store by 2013, amounting to more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste globally.

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September 25, 2008

Plug-Ins better than hybrids

Here's a year-long study from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) proving that a plug-in electric vehicle has more advantages than a standard hybrid and more so over the current traditional cars.

Here are some of their selling points:
  • The plug-in hybrid achieved 67 MPG, a 60-percent increase over thestandard hybrid's 42 MPG and a 205-percent increase in MPG compared with a standard car at 22 MPG.
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September 24, 2008

Green victory from senate bill proposal

Expansion within the US green sector could further explode if the House of Representatives and the president will approve the $18bn clean energy tax incentives passed by the Senate yesterday as part of the huge Baucus-Grassley bill. The amended proposal replaced the H.R. 6049 energy tax legislation approved in the House of Representatives earlier this year.
"This bill’s energy tax incentives will spark clean, homegrown sources of power and thousands of good-paying jobs here at home, too,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). “These tax cuts for jobs, energy and families are coming not a moment too soon.”

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September 23, 2008

No more explosive fertilizers!

Honeywell can be commended in the development of its new ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer, which the company said is not only as effective as the traditional product but it has lower explosive potential, which is very significant when it comes to cutting back potential terrorism activities.

Hard as it may be, the chemical industry should do its part in developing chemicals that cannot be easily used by terrorists, especially those that are commercially accessible such as fertilizers.



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P&G files coffee container lawsuit

Lighter-weight container is a green marketer's tool as well as a way for companies to save millions of dollars in reduced packaging material, fuel and other distribution costs.

Which is why Procter & Gamble is suing Kraft Foods alleging that it infringed P&G's patented lighter-weight Folgers plastic container when Kraft recently introduced in the US its new 4-pound plastic container Maxwell House coffee.

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VCs not worried on greentech bubble

The financial market maybe in shambles but the Green Technology sector should cheer up with this new report from KPMG (a US audit, tax and advisory firm) stating that the venture capital community is expected to invest more in green next year.

In KPMG's poll of 301 venture capitalists (VCs), corporate executives, entrepreneurs and bankers, 91% said they expect investments to rise next year, with 50% even stating an increase of 20% or more compared to the 2008 levels, while 34% expect investment levels to increase 10%-19%.

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September 22, 2008

NGOs' Chemical List for Dummies

Public activists and non-government organizations especially in Europe seem to know more about the risks and hazards of specific chemical products more than the chemical producers and consumers themselves.

Take for example the list of "high concern" chemicals called the Reach SIN list 1.0 provided by the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), the Sweden-based nonprofit organisation dedicated to working towards a toxic free environment (according to their website's intro). The list was developed with the collaboration of other environmental groups.

According to ICIS News ( subscription required), nearly 300 chemicals are on the list compared to only 16 chemicals nominated by European member states to be included on a list of "substances of very high concern" (SVHC), as agreed under the registration and evaluation of European chemicals legislation known as Reach.

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States of the green nation

Sustainlane.com, an online community focusing on sustainable living, released today its top green US cities for the year based on their ability to maintain healthy air, drinking water, parks and public transit systems, as well as a robust, sustainable local economy with green building, farmers markets, renewable energy and alternative fuels (yes..I admittedly just cut and paste this sentence...so sue me!).

According to the report, Portland topped the list (again) followed by San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Oakland, California. The Rankings will be featured at the world’s first green cities and communities conference in Geneva, on October 1, 2008, said Sustainlane.

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September 19, 2008

Weekly news roundup

The US financial crisis is this week's big news with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, insurance firm A.I.G being bailed out by the federal government (following their earlier bailouts of two other giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), and Merrill Lynch to be acquired by Bank of America.

Will this crisis affect federal funding and tax credits on the renewables sector? To be sure banks and other lenders will tighten their standards in financing any projects and investments, which unfortunately is always badly needed especially in the clean tech sector.

We will just have to wait and see some of the industry analysts' projections after this crisis...if those financial analysts still have their jobs. For now, here's this week's news:

Lehman effects on solar
The effects of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy filing on some of Evergreen Solar's stocks is uncertain but Evergreen officials said they are preparing all legal remedies to protect the company and its shareholders.

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Market crash in 2025

My colleague John Richardson looked at his crystal ball and saw history repeating itself, this time with another financial collapse in 2025 involving greedy green brokers, government ignorance on carbon technology, bubble collapse in green home mortgages, fake carbon certifications, and questionable carbon practices.

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Rumors on Chinese hair bands

I just got this email from a friend about rumors circulating the web that some China-sourced hair bands are made out of recycled condoms. Snopes.com, the website that verifies whether a web-circulating urban legend is true or not, confirmed the rumor and cited several press agencies that reported the news.

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Short selling abounds in clean techs

Today's temporary ban on short selling of US stocks by the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed a lot of this activities going on in the clean technology sector, according to the solar technology company Evolution Solar.

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September 18, 2008

Bio-diapers on the market

I finally found a greener diaper product that could probably help an environmentalist mom's dilemma between choosing an inconvenient washable cloth or non-biodegradable/compostable disposable diapers.

gDiapers, which is being marketed (limitedly) in the US by Australian founders Jason and Kimberly Graham-Nye is composed of three layers: a washable cotton outer layer; a washable waterproof inner layer; and a compostable/biodegradable absorbing insert (think of a large feminine pad) that can be flushed or thrown away. The company said you can even compost the insert in your tomato garden.

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MTV attacks greenwashers

We always heard that green is now in the mainstream but I guess this makes it really, really official if MTV is now producing videos geared towards environmentalism and even has its own green site called MTV Switch, which is network's Global Climate Change Campaign.
"It’s all about seeing things in a different light—a green light. You’ll find clever ads, interesting videos, and tips from Environmentors. We'll be looking for the best ideas and innovations that can help us reinvent how we live in ways that are cool for us and the planet."

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September 17, 2008

US cars ready to be electrified?

Are US consumers ready to convert to plug-in electric automobiles?

General Motor sure hoped so because it doesn't want another billion-dollar electric vehicle project to go down the drain as what happened with their EV1 commuter car in mid 1990s, according to this New York Times article.

GM is gearing up the 2010 launch of its plug-in electric vehicle Chevy Volt and showcased the full production version of the car at the company's 100th year anniversary event in its Detroit headquarters.

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The new green leagues

You can't have a green industry without green associations and there have been several new groups that came out just this year. This is just in the US unfortunately but anybody who can give me a new green group list (anywhere), I'll be happy to share it with the green blog readers.

1. Bioplastic Council by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) - formally launched just yesterday, the new group will provide a forum for resin and additive suppliers, as well as processors and equipment suppliers, to promote the development of bioplastics as an integral part of the plastics industry.

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More BPA-Free Bottles

I was debating with myself whether to post another bisphenol-A (BPA) story as it's getting to be too repetitive. Another study, this time from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), reported that the estrogenic chemicals are found in urine samples and that they have a strong link in diseases such as cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities.

However, the researchers cannot prove that BPA was the direct cause of the diseases and said further study was needed.

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September 16, 2008

Tires on the road to green

You don't usually associate Danisco, globally-known for its yummy biscuits, in producing rubber tire chemicals.

However, Danisco's biotechnology company Genencor has been active in producing renewable-based chemicals and fuels, and just this week announced a a research collaboration with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company to develop biobased isoprene - a key feedstock in rubber tire manufacture.

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Breakthrough in sugar chemicals

Another eureka moment in the world of green chemistry is Genomatica's development of sugar-based 1,4 butanediol (BDO), a key feedstock in the manufacturing of hundreds of industrial chemicals for making plastics, rubber and fiber products.

The privately-held company, which has the backing of several Silicon Valley venture capital firms, said it was able to create strains of bacteria that has the potential to produce BDO via fermentation in a global-scale manufacturing plant in less than one year.

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Top sustainable companies

ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) released yesterday its Top 100 global chemical companies based on their financial performance, and Germany's BASF topped the chart with $85bn (EUR61bn) in 2007 sales.

Just less than a week ago, BASF was also picked as the top sustainable company within the chemical sector by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) 2008 review.

Coincidence? Most probably, but there is no arguing that companies are profiting from the green trend not only because their customers demand sustainable products but the companies themselves are applying sustainability actions such as energy- and fuel-efficiency, and waste- and byproduct-reductions in their processing and distribution, that lead to lower operational costs.

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September 15, 2008

Vegetable seed cleans up toxic soils

Irish scientists are looking at the vegetable oilseed rapeseed, which is currently being used as a raw material to produce biodiesel, to also help clean up soils that are contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, zinc and chromium.

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Drilling to save the environment

Here is another interesting economic analysis (with a little facts and numbers for those who like hard data) from the New York Times on US offshore drilling.

According to Robert Hahn, director of the Reg-Markets Center at the American Enterprise Institute, and Peter Passell, senior fellow at the Milken Institute, coastal drilling in restricted US territories will only lower gas pump prices by a few cents in a long term. However, they also said that the failure to develop these oil resources would cost the state and federal governments hundreds of billions of dollars in royalties and taxes.

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September 13, 2008

Eastman on cosmetic sustainability

The green blog is fortunate enough to get Jim McCaulley, Eastman Chemical's global market development manager, to provide some cosmetic sustainability insights through, I believe, is the blog's first podcast.

According to McCaulley, sustainability is a big trend that will continue to grow and dictate the needs of consumers in the cosmetic and personal care market. He noted that major brands that can reduce their carbon footprint is a critical indicator of success.

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September 12, 2008

Here comes China melamine..again

After a spectacular Olympic event in China, you'd kind of forget some of the tainted food and consumer goods problems that the country faced before then.

Unfortunately, there has been another recent tainted food problem going around in China and this time it affected infant formulas.

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Weekly News Roundup

The US Gulf Coast, where major oil and gas refineries are located, is preparing for hurricane Ike's fury, which means we might expect fuel costs to go up in the very near term.

That said, various renewable energy associations are still waiting for Congress to extend tax breaks for alternative energy such as wind, solar, hydrogen fuel, etc., which are set to expire by December 31.

According to today's Wall Street Journal report, several senate leaders are consider a new bipartisan plan to reduce tax breaks for large oil and gas companies all the while extending credits for alternative energy. The bill called Energy Independence and Investment Act of 2008 will be put on the table next month.

More posts coming soon in that subject. For now here's this week's news.

High-tech green cosmetics
Dow Corning and Elevance Renewable Science will jointly develop [and market] natural oil-based personal care ingredients using Materia's metathesis technology. One ingredient, in particular is a naturally derived petrolatum alternatives for use in skin care, color cosmetic, hair care, and underarm products.

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September 11, 2008

Regulatory and sustainability in cosmetics

On the second day of the HBA cosmetic show in New York City as I attended some presentations on their third annual regulatory summit, the buzzwords that frequently circulated throughout the program were green, California, bisphenol-A, phthalates, REACH, consumer advocacy groups, organic, certification, and of course regulation.

According to Rupert Day from Milbar Labs, each and every cosmetic and personal care manufacturers have to start thinking about sustainability and green chemistry in their formulation strategy if they want to achieve regulatory compliance in all countries worldwide.
"Start locally but think globally," he said. "Use fully functional actives that are sustainable, next generation ingredients and for synthetics, they must be safe for the consumer and the environment."

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Zero waste in Japan

While working on another article about the Japanese green movement, I came across this interview from BBC News about a small town in Japan called Kamitkatsu, where its mayor implemented a zero waste policy since 2003.

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Cosmetic show in full green force

I've been running around at the annual HBA cosmetic event in New York city for the past two days and that led me to not being able to do my blogging job, for which I apologize.

Fortunately, the 3-day show is full of green news, events and presentations. For my stories on new green packaging products launched at the show as well as some of the difficulties in using bioplastic in cosmetic packaging, you can access them on ICIS.com [for subscribers only though -- sorry!].

My favorite quote while attending some presentations is from Wylie Royce, vice president of New Jersey-based dyes and specialty chemicals firm Royce International, who said that "dyes bleed like a stuck pig in polylactic acid (PLA) plastic."

Of course this produced some comments about lipsticks and pigs but I'm not getting into that.

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September 9, 2008

Drill! Drill! Drill!

It was no surprise that one of the main focus in last week's Republican convention, especially during the speech of the vice presidential nominee (and current Alaska governor) Sarah Palin, is the need for oil drilling.

Here's an excerpt from her speech while the crowd chanted "Drill! Drill! Drill!":

"Take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: we've got lots of both [oil and gas]. Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we all didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all."

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Warning on solar fraud

Ever had solar panels explode in your face? Or does your rooftop seems to glow in the dark?

Maybe you should have checked if your solar panel contractor is legit.

The California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) released this advisory a couple of days ago warning consumers to be careful about the growing fraudulent solar installations in the state (and elsewhere for that matter).

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September 8, 2008

Chems profit from the sun

Clean energy equates to profitability for several chemical companies. It seems more so when it comes to the solar market where the race is on to produce the cheapest and most efficient photovoltaic materials.

For example, Germany-based Evonik is really giddy about the bright prospect of solar market in Europe.

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Get your green MBA

I've been taking some classes this fall and somebody suggested for me to take a look at this new MBA (masters in business administration) program being offered at the Brandeis International Business School, located in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The business school just launched their Global Green MBA designed to address the growing issues of corporate social, ethical, and environmental responsibilities all summed up under the word sustainability.

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September 5, 2008

Weekly News Roundup

I am off again today visiting Rhodia's new North American research and technology center in to Bristol, Pennsylvania. According to my google source, the lab's research team develops and launches about 20 new products, and files an average of 20 new patent applications each year.

I'm sure there are green chemistry brewing around there somewhere. I'll let you know the specifics as soon as I get some information.

For now, I have to leave you with this week's news roundup. Hopefully next week, I'll be able to share some of the green ongoings at the HBA cosmetic show in New York, BIO's Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology being held in Vancouver, and some solar news that came from the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference in Spain.

Delving US geothermal potential
AltanaRock Energy and Weyerhaeuser will explore the potential for developing geothermal projects in California, Oregon and Washington. Altana can convert up to 40% of Weyerhaueser's 667,000 acreage rights to geothermal development leases within two years.

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September 4, 2008

BPA saga continues

Is bisphenol-A (BPA) in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin safe for use or not?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there is no health risk associated with the chemical "although" further testing is required. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that people are safe from the levels of BPA exposure currently found in baby bottles and metal cans "but" it will continue to monitor scientific findings regarding BPA's safety.

All was calm and good for a few days [or weeks] and even California decided not to pass its SB1713 bill that would have ban BPA 's use in food-contact products for use by children under the age of three.

But then the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) released its final BPA report yesterday....



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Low battery? Charged it up with Vodka!

Here's a really good invention (according to my non-scientific survey).

iPod addicts will probably developed alcoholic tendency as well now that you can charge your beloved MP3 (or any other portable consumer electronics) with vodka or other household alcohol products hidden in your cupboards.....or office drawers.

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September 3, 2008

ExxonMobil Ad axed

After Shell, ExxonMobil is the next Big Oil advertiser to get bitten by the UK media watchdog, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The agency received four complaints challenging ExxonMobil's television ad that claims natural gas is one of the world's cleanest fuel.



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Corn in solar panel

Solar is becoming more green thanks to development of several biobased materials.

In this instance, solar panel manufacturer Solar Panels Plus developed SPP corn glycol for use as a heat transfer fluid in solar thermal system. The company said the corn glycol is an alternative to traditional petroleum-based propylene glycol.

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Sprouting green chemical companies

Another green US company is ready to revolutionize the way chemicals are produced.

Segetis, formed in 2006 and funded by Khosla Ventures, just appointed former Cargill employee James Stoppert as its new president and CEO. I remembered interviewing Mr. Stoppert about their corn-based plastics and ethanol a few years ago at Cargill's Nebraska facility, when he headed the company's Industrial BioProducts business unit.

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Green chemicals in August

The chemical industry has been busy churning out new biobased and other green chemicals last month ranging from cleaners to cookwares to films and foams. I do wonder how prices of some of these chemicals compare to traditional products. Do they still have premiums over petroleum-based products despite current (still high) crude oil prices?

1. Amcor PVC-free films - Amcor Flexibles introduced its chlorine-free blister barrier films made from coextrusion of polypropylene and COC (Cyclic Olefin Copolymer). The films are said to offer a cost-effective alternative to the traditional PVdC (polyvinylidene dichloride)-coated PVC blister film.

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September 2, 2008

Spinning a yarn on eco-fibers

While the goal of appliance manufacturers are to clean clothes using eco-friendly machines, the goal of the fashion and textile industry is also to go with the green flow using energy-saving, eco-friendly fibers.

ICIS Chemical Business, the magazine I work for featured today the Textiles and Fabrics market, and one interesting topic is that chemical industry are said to be looking back to nature for inspiration in the manufacture of high-tech, energy-saving and eco-conscious materials. You can read more about Lucia Carpio's article on this link.

Also check out innovation (that includes green R&D) within the industrial fiber market by Feliza Mirasol.

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Washing machines of the future

Yesterday, all in the US were celebrating the Labor Day holiday and it was indeed a labor weekend for me. I agreed to help my sister with her house moving and not only did I find myself paper lining drawers and closet shelves, I also accompanied her into shopping for a new washing machine and dryer.

Since I use the neighborhood laundry mat, I had no idea that there are so many choices to pick! Front loaders, top loaders, machines that prevent allergy & asthma, stackable, portable, dryer with steamer, high energy saver, etc...

What I found in my search of the ultimate lean, green washing machine is that the R&D in this area are not only focusing on lower energy consuming machines, they are also looking to clean clothes without using detergents or water.

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