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Ecosia, the Tree-saving Web Search Engine

Born in 2009 from an idea of Christian Kroll, Ecosia is a CO2-neutral web search engine based in Berlin, Germany, which donates 80% of its surplus income to a tree planting program in Brazil. Ecosia is also raising funds for forestation in Burkina Faso, as part of the Great Green Wali project backed by the African Union and the World Bank, which aims to prevent desertification.

Powered by Bing and Yahoo, Ecosia shows ads together with the search results. By clicking on these ads Ecosia receives an income, of which 80% is donated to the tree planting-projects. So far, Ecosia has donated more than §4.5 million to the environment, planting more than 2.5 million trees. Their goal is to plant 1 billion trees by 2020.

As any other search engine, Ecosia results consist of (Eco)ads and (Eco)links. By clicking on the ads, Ecosia is paid for having delivered the user to the advertiser’s site, and by clicking on the links, the user is taken to the desired item in the e-commerce partner’s shop. Every time a user purchases something at one of these shops through the Ecosia link, Ecosia is paid a commission.

Planting forests doesn’t only solve environmental issues. For example, deserts can be turned back into fertile woods, which feed local communities, improving their health and creating jobs which could consequently strengthen the economy and stabilize political situations.

The great thing about Ecosia is that all you need to do is to make it your default search engine. Then, start searching and looking for what you need, but with the awareness that now you’re making a difference.

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Picture by ChCarlou; link:

A Savonius Turbine for the Top Farmers

For a truly ‘blue’ aquaponics system, as currently under development by the TopFarmers – team, the question about sustainable energy supply is central. In the long run the system shall be mainly supplied from renewable energy sources, which provides independence from fossil fuels, reduces CO2 emissions and saves money.

In the following we want to introduce a Do-It-Yourself Savonius turbine, with which one can easily harvest wind to provide small amounts of electricity. It requires very simple materials, only a few hours of work and no special tools.

The decision to build a Savonius turbine was developed after only some time researching the topic, 11 A Savonius Turbine for the Top Farmers Blogs  and it became clear to us that this type of turbine fits our needs best. The Savonius turbine is a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) that was originally designed by the Finnish engineer S.J. Savonius in 1922 and has become increasingly popular in recent years. The construction of the turbine is fairly easy and does not require any special materials. We decided on a VAWT because it can be assembled from scrap materials like barrels, pipes, metal bars and wood. Although it has a lower efficiency as compared to horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT), it does not require any instruments to move the turbine into the wind. This is due to the special design features that allow the turbine to intercept the wind coming from all directions, as opposed to HAWTs that need a mechanism of direction control, which is very complicated to build on your own.


2 A Savonius Turbine for the Top Farmers Blogs


Due to their way of catching wind power (working by “drag” force, not “lift” force) the Savonius rotor can be used for producing electricity as well as pumping water. Therefore we had to find a way of increasing the rounds per minute (RPM) value of the turbine to match it with an electric generator (which usually works at 90 RPM). Moreover, we had to consider the torgue as an important parameter to pump water. Consequently we decided to build the blades from a PVC pipe instead of using a barrel, because the slender of the pipe (whose ration height/diameter is greater than that for the plastic barrel) can guarantee a higher RPM at the same swept area.
We chose a simple PVC water pipe with a diameter of 160 mm and 100 cm length and cut it into two symmetrical parts.

3 A Savonius Turbine for the Top Farmers Blogs


For the axis that transmits the blade’s rotation to the generator we used a 100 cm long threaded rod with a diameter of 10 mm. This was passed straight between the two partially overlapping PVC blades.

To reduce the friction between the axle and the frame construction, we installed two ball bearings with an outer diameter of 27 mm. Both were placed in a small piece of wood that was fixed to the outer frame; one at the top and one on the bottom.

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For the frame we used wooden slats because they are easy to assemble and give great stability. The top and bottom sides on which the blades and bearings are fixed are made from very thin wooden plates and have a diameter of 40 cm. Finally, we used metal clamps to connect the plates with the slats.

In the picture below you can see the end-product of our work. As you can see, the rotor is well supported which gives it maximum stability and support even in high wind speeds.Furthermore, due to the low weight and the ball bearings the rotation starts at very low wind speed. In the next step we want to match the rotor with a mechanical or belt gear to generate electricity. Most recommended are permanent magnet generators (PMGs) because they do not need an external source of power to initiate the turning and start to produce energy at relatively low RPM values.

6 A Savonius Turbine for the Top Farmers Blogs


And it has only just begun… !

This is the best way to describe the present situation of the Blue Economy.

Fife years after successfully starting the campaign, we can see a continuous dissemination of the concepts and principles of the Blue Economy. Who could have imagined that publishing a business case per week would have such an effect. Many have heard Blue Economy keynotes, and besides the numerous workshops that were held quite a few people have begun to reflect on their actions within the present economic system and gathered their courage to break new ground within entrepreneurship.

This is often compared to David and Goliath, to the struggle of the small versus the big. My opinion is that this reflects the courage of every single entrepreneur, to see his or her own business model as a whole, including all of its consequences from the value-added chain and the product’s life cycle – not merely the so-called “sustainable” core business between purchase and sale. If designed correctly, then a profitable business emerges, with multiple cash flows that can still be orientated without any compromise to nature. The good feeling of living a futurable way of life as well as the balance between economy, ecology and social responsibility make the concept so compelling, as well as competitive.

An openness towards developing new solutions tends to emerge in places where the need to change is most urgent. So it is no surprise that it was in the marginal zones where the ideas of the Blue Economy have been adopted at first. Small countries, regions or rural areas, all these are most affected by the fluxes in demographic and global tendencies. It is in these places that jobs are lost the fastest, accompanied by a loss of culture and identity. The Blue Economy provides inspiring examples of how innovations emerge in the most simple of circumstances in the developing world (such as with pulp to protein) or how the most remote areas of Europe have integrated inventions into their daily life – based on common-sense necessity.

Now the metropolises are slowly joining the movement. The continuous reports from the marginal zones have motivated and resulted in an increasing number of implementation of ideas from the Blue Economy in cities. In Germany, Berlin was the first in installing a clustered cascading system. From mushroom cultivation on coffee grounds to combined fish and vegetable productions in inner-city greenhouses, to research and development of new solar systems with European partners; here a network has emerged which implements the cascading system without compromise, always focused on creating products which are cheaper and better.

You are all invited to join the Blue Economy. Thousands of contacts are needed to generate a successful implementation, but every new company creates five to ten jobs on average. This is where the force to change emerges. No matter where you are; in London, Paris, Dublin, Oslo or Madrid: Start building up networks of success and help the Blue Economy to reach its objective of generating jobs. On this pathway you will become acquainted with many new ideas and innovations. Feel free to form alliances, but also check their quality. For this end, Blue Economy principles have been developed which you can look up at

The Blue Economy Foundation as umbrella organization and an independent network of experts have taken on the task of further developing these principles in 2015. This equates to a lot of work ahead of us in which we can use your support. Embrace the principles and utilise them, for they give you components for competitiveness and empower you to see the differences between true innovations and those which “just do a little less bad”. When adopting an innovation, set out for the real “game changers”; products which change the rules of the market and which allow you to create new business models.

The Blue Economy provides you with all of this. Don’t wait: act now!

Markus Haastert

Co-founder of the Blue Economy

Blue Economy project, TopFarmers, got into the finale of Generation-D competition

Blue Economy project, TopFarmers, got into the finale of Generation-D competition

The new Blue Economy project, TopFarmers, got into the finale of Generation-D competition. Like the photo on Facebook and spread the word – the project with the most likes wins the “public choice award!

At TopFarmers, we believe that foor should be produced close to consumers – and that fish, vegetables and tropical fruits in closed-loop systems are an essential component in this endeavour.

Support us !


Neverland – Windmill


There are a lot of tutorials on Internet, especially on Youtube, about how to make a “Diy Windmill”. All of them use recycled materials as bicycle wheels, plastic bottles or old pieces of wood and iron. The methods described are very helpful, and of course, very smart systems. The chosen about which one is the best is based, first of all, on what you prefer, then, which kinds of row materials you have at home, or you can get easily, and finally, which one is the simplest to build. In the following pictures there are shown some example of wind turbine do it yourself (Figure 1).

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As you can see from the pictures above the windmill could be divided in two types: vertical axis windmill and horizontal axis windmill. In the present guide I have chosen a vertical axis windmill because is easier to build then the other method. Infect, in order to use a system with a horizontal axis, it should be used an instrumentation to transfer the energy from the horizontal axis of windmill to the vertical axis of alternator. It is not very hard to make but I think that it is always better start with an easy things because they surely will be more difficult afterwards.

In conclusion the present guide will describe the method how to make a vertical axis windmill, and in particular, the row materials used to make it are two tanks of 55 U.S. gallon (circa 200 l). The next picture shows as the wind turbine will be at the end of work (Figure 2).

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Mechanical parts

First of all to make the wind turbine, as mentioned in the last paragraph, we need to find two barrels of about 200 litres. The first operations is to slide them in two parts then join in order to have like “helix”. They are joined together with a 3 inch PVC circle as shown in the following pictures (Figure 3;Figure 4).

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The second step is to create the unit that allows the barrel helix to spin. It is composed from 2 units of ball bearing, one in the top and one in the bottom of the barrels, joined at 2 pieces of timber about 9 square inch with a hole in order to put a 3 inch pipe (Figure 5).

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The last step is to put a 3 inch pipe trough the two tanks, and then, to connect the ball bearing systems. The length of the pipe depend how high are the barrels, but considering that the tanks are high about 1 meter, the total length of the pipe should be like 2,5 meter. The next picture shows how it is the final product with the pipe (Figure 6). When we have the completely wind turbine, it should be fixed in the wood structure explained in the chapter before. Once installed the wind turbine in the pallets structure, it has to be connected at the alternator and the all electrical parts to produce the energy. All the electrical part will explain in the next chapter.

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Finally, there is shown a table where are summarized all the materials needed to construct the mechanical parts of the station “Neverland”.

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Electrical parts

Building your own windmill turbine requires a number of items. A windmill, a structure of supporting it off the ground, a motor, an energy smoothing system and an inverter if you want to use your wind turbine generator to power equipments. Each of these parts needs to work efficiently in order to generate energy for your generator. We will discuss the parts and how to assemble a wind turbine in this D.I.Y. Guide.

The structure to support the wind turbine off the ground is substantially a wooden construction that allows the motor to be close to the barrels and connected with them through a gears; they transfer energy from the vertical axis to the power generator. The simplest method in order to do gears is to use a normally cutting boards, maybe recycled, and cut them with saw to cut plastic. Another method to make gears could be a 3D printer, but it is not a very common and easy to have at home.

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The gears are manly of two dimensions: first one is, connected at the vertical axis with a pvc pipe, bigger then the second one, merged to the motor. As mentioned before they must be connected together to transfer the energy from the windmill to the motor or alternator. In the follow pictures you can seen the gears and how they should assemble (Figure 8;Figure 9).

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Once built the gears and their connections, it is time to attach them and the motor to a piece of wood close to the windmill system somehow. The location of the motor is critical and you may need to make a very good mounting point suitable for the windmill axis, cause the energy generated depends how efficiently are the whole system. The pictures below shown how could be the connection between the mechanical and electrical part (Figure 10; Figure 11).

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The motor used is a permanent magnet (pm) motor (Figure 12). There are a number of others methods using car alternators or stepper motors, for my opinion, the chosen is based on what type of power generator you can find easily. I have considered a 24 V, 250 W motors which run at 2650 rpm creating 24 V, comes from an old scooter. It is designed to spin when the electricity is passed through it. However, if we spin the motor, we can create electricity and use the motor as a generator. The speed at which the motor is revolving (the amount of rotations through 360 degrees undertaken in a set time) normally measured in revolutions per minute (rpm) is directly proportional to (increases and decreases) the output of the pm motor. Assuming the wind continues at a constant speed downhill gear creates a larger voltage output for the motor than an uphill gear.

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There are a number of options for smoothing electricity in a wind turbine generator system. The following described method is with a led acid battery. The battery can be used as capacitor that smooths the voltage output from the motor, so the battery has the function of capacitor with the added benefit of providing long term energy storage. Again it is possible to over charge battery which can not result battery fizz. For a 12 V lead acid battery the voltage across the system should be kept between 12 and 15 Volts.

Finally, if you are wishing to use AC mains powered appliances you will need to purchase an inverter. A power inverter is an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). There are two types of inverters. A pure sine wave inverter creates a smooth AC output. A quasi sine makes a square wave, but some device may not work with quasi sine so the chosen is required in a pure sine inverter. Inverters are designed to work with batteries so they usually work with voltages between 9 and 14 Volts.

In order to connect the device each other I have chosen to use a 30 A “Anderson Connectors”. The connectors hold a good connection but are also designed to pop easily, if you trips on a cable for example, so you do not damage any soldering.

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In order to summarize all materials needed to complete the electrical part it was written the following table (Table 2).

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Test Cels

Neverland – Solar Panels


Once built the wind turbine to provide power during the windy days, it is time to make a system to meet power when the wind does not blow. The solar panel seems like an obvious choice to supplement the wind turbine. This is the reason because I have chosen to integrate the power from the wind with two solar panels into the roof of the Neverland structure.

I have started out the way I start every project, by looking for information on internet about diy solar panels. As mentioned before for the wind turbine, nowadays, there are a lot of guides and videos on internet about how to build a home-made solar panels. The windmills can be of different types, like vertical axis windmill or horizontal axis windmill, but the solar panels are in general the same, with a box for the array of solar cells and a glass above to protect them.

I have never tried to built a “diy” solar panel, but I think it could be possible even using common tools and inexpensive materials. Also the solar cells can be found as second hand or recycled material. The main problem is that the old cells have to be checked and this operation is for expert people, then I suggest to buy new solar cells indeed they are inexpensive and easy to find, furthermore they should be the only things to buy because the others materials, useful for the system, are easily to find as recycled materials.

The following picture (Figure 1) shows the solar panel how should be at the end of the work.

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How they are made

First of all, we should consider the dimensions of the roof structure in order to install the two solar panels. There are two surface in the roof: the first one has the dimensions of 1×1 m, while the dimensions of the second one are 0,85×1 m. Since we have these surface I have thought that could be interesting build the panels to cover the whole roof with solar cells and then have as much as possible sun power relative to the area available. The following (Figure 2) picture is a drawing of the roof to understand how should appear at the end of the work.

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The quantity of the solar cells to buy depends on the surface where we have to dispose them. After a little research on internet I have chosen to use a 6×6 inches (circa 16×16 cm) mono-crystalline solar cells. The total area of the roof is 1,85 meters square, so dividing by the surface of each cell (0,0256 meters square), we have the total number of the solar cells we need: 70 cells. Each cell produces about 0,5 Volt, so 70 cells in series would give about 35 Volts which would be good for charging two 12 Volt batteries. In the following picture (Figure 3) is shown an example of solar cell. Take note that they are very thin and fragile as glass, therefore they are easily damaged.

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There are a lots of sizes of solar cells; you could choose larger or smaller cells for your panel, but the only important thing is that they have to be all the same size. Cells of the same size produce the same voltage no matter what type they are, while if you use different dimension of cells, the current will be limited by the smallest cell in the group and the larger cells will not work to their full potential.

The solar panels box are two shallow boxes. They could be made with a recycled wooden materials, I think it is very easy to find, probably you have them somewhere in your home. The dimensions of the two boxes, as mentioned before, are: 1×1 m and 1×0,85 m. In the following picture (Figure 4) are represented a simple scheme of the two panels. To protect the solar cells from the weather, the panel will have a plexiglass front, also glass could be used for this, but it is too fragile so I would avoid. Even the wooden parts of the panel should be protected from the action of the weather, so it is useful use a waterproof paint to protect them from water and moisture.

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Once the wooden bases are complete it is time to make the solar cells ready. The first step is to solder and merge the cells. I read something about this operation and the best way to merge the cells is using a low-wattage soldering iron and fine rosen – core solder. Remember the cells are thin and delicate, if you push too hard, you will break the cells. The cells have to be soldered in series: the negative tabs from the top of one cell are soldered to the positive part on the bottom of the next. This connects the cells in series, and adds their voltages. The operation has to be done until you have a string of 6 cells then the whole process has to be repeated twelve times to get 12 strings of 6 cells for the two panels. Even the strings of cells need to be wired in series, so the strings must be staggered. In other words the second, fourth, sixth etc. strings must be rotated 180 degrees respect to the first, third etc. strings. To interconnect the strings of cells could be used copper braid, solar cell tabbing material or even regular wire. The operations mentioned before are shown in the next picture (Figure 5;Figure 6).

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It is time to attach the cells in their box. In this step a tool is very useful: the silicone. There are many methods to merge the cells in the shallow box, but I think that the best is to place a small blob of silicone caulk in the centre of each cell. It is recommended do not use too much glue and do not glue the cells everywhere but only in the centres. The cells and the panel, once mounted, will expand, contract, flex and wrap with change in the temperature in the humidity. If you glue the cells too tightly to the substrate, they will crack in time while gluing them at only one point in the centre allows the cells to float freely on top of the substrate.

Each solar panel in a solar power system needs a blocking diode in series to prevent the panel from discharging your batteries at night or during cloudy weather. Once the strings of cells, the diode and all the connection are ready it is recommend to test the voltages and ampere of the system by ammeter as shown in the next picture (Figure 7).

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If the system it is well connected and the test has a good results you can proceed with closing the solar panels with the plexiglass. The best way to attach the glass on the shalow box is to screw it and create an isolation around the frame with silicone to make a waterproof system. After some hours to dry the silicone the solar panels are ready to be mounted in the roof of Neverland structure. Finally should be add a polarized two-pin jones plug to the end of the panels wires. Mating female plug will be wired into the charge controller of the windmill system, so the solar panel can supplement its power production and battery charging capacity.

As in the past step I will write a table with a list of the things you need to build the solar panels (Table 1).

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Neverland – New Wooden Construction

In the chapters above there are summarized all the steps on how to build “Neverland”: a “DIY” power energy pallets structure. It includes two systems to provide energy: a windmill and a solar panels station. At first I thought that the structure around the vertical axis windmill could be built using disassemble pallets, in fact, three pieces of wooden boards, in each pallet, must to be taken off to allow the air to enter in the structure and moves the windmill inside. After some analysis I understood that maybe the open space in order to enter the air it is not enough, then the new idea. The structure around the windmill system should be always with the woods of pallets, but this time with an open structure and not with a disassembled pallets. The air without obstacles enters inside in a better way and can offer more air to the windmill and this is could be translate as more energy. The following picture (Figure 1) shows the new structure.

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Blue Economy vortex

Vortex power plant – natural energy from local rivers

While this idea is not yet possible make yourself as a DIY, a vortex power plant is a simple and solid technology with lots of potential. It produces electricity in harmony with nature.

A vortex power plant is a further development of a water wheel or a reservoir system. A water vortex power plant is a small, rugged river power plant, which can also be used when there is  a slight slope.The energy is caught in a swirl and almost immediately drives a turbine.

If you still operates a such a small power plant in a region together with the citizens it can provide a great symbiosis of economy, ecology and community feeling in addition to the production of electricity.


3D Printers and DIY Filament Makers

3D Printers and DIY Filament Makers

3D printers are everywhere.

Even President Obama said in his speech about the state of the union that 3D printers had the « potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything ». Their process is really simple, they all make solid objects using an additive process where successive layers of materials are laid down in different shapes as opposed to traditional subtractive machining techniques, which rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting, grinding or drilling.

But it is safe to ask: are 3D printers at the heart of a new model of sustainable production and consumption, or will simplicity and ubiquity cause us to overprint things, and the technology will be used in non-sustainable ways ? Some claim that thanks to 3D printers we will produce less waste. But this is really use-dependent: if users of the printers run several copies to get the best print and then discard the less satisfactory ones it is not the case. Printers are also supposed to be energy-efficient, but this depend really on the kind of printer.One of the main claim for the use of 3D printers is that they can reduce energy-use and associated emissions in transportation compared to providing the same products through conventional manufacturing. Their recycling performances are also largely dependent on users. But many companies are already offering recycle services. Another advantage of 3D printers is that they offer us the ability to use cleaner materials

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But what could be a really interesting development amongst the 3D printing world is the creation of DIY Filament maker and extruder. RecycleBots are open source supply of 3D printing materials by using recycled materials. It consist in open-source hardware devices A RecycleBot is an open-source for converting waste plastic into filament for open-source 3D printers. The Filabot Wee, for instance, is designed to use as few parts as possible, while still making quality filament quickly, for 3D printers The plans are freely available so that everyone can build their own. The machine can also be bought in kit.

Other initiatives exist such as Dave Hakkens’ Precious Plastic project. The Dutch designer started from the observation that plastic is a great material: it is lightweight, strong, easy to shape and great to recycle. But it is rarely recycled, and seen as a disposable and worthless material. He developed a series of machines to set up a small scale plastic workshop.The goal is for people to bring old plastic to workshops and make new products out of it, this would then allow to produce plastic locally. His whole project is documented on his website. At the end, the blueprints are going to be made available to everyone for free.

Useful links to go further.