Outside the Box: Ship shape & smelly energy

Enviroblog's new weekly column, Outside The Box, features stories outside the norm and refusing to conform.

This week's Outside the Box highlights people finding creative uses for mundane and even gross materials. It might just be the only place on the web with Viking ships, cow dung, plastic bottles, and ethanol all in one feature. Yes, that's right, I'm bragging about it.

Who said recycling had to be boring? Not these Juneau conservation groups building a twenty-foot Viking boat reusing old fishing rods, nets, and 5,000 plastic drink bottles. Instead of conquest and plunder this longship will serve as a constant (and creative) reminder about the long-term damage plastics can wreck on the high seas. And why the heck not? These conservation groups had a brilliant idea if you ask me. In addition to inspiring recycling, it seems like a fantastically inexpensive way to build a boat. My grandfather always said the best way to simulate owning a boat was to take a cold shower while ripping up $100 dollar bills. If I am ever going to command a vessel this is probably my best bet. The question is…can they make me a Cutter?

Cow dung is now being used to produce gas -- but not the kind traditionally associated with manure. A Nebraskan company, E-3 Biofuels, has discovered a method to use cow pies to reduce the price of ethanol up to 30 cents a gallon. Basically, the byproducts of the ethanol making process are fed to the cows, and the er… byproducts of that are then used as an energy source to make ethanol. It all makes for a very elegant and somewhat yucky system. If it lowers the price I’m paying at the pump though, I will go out there and shovel it myself.

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