Monday, July 29, 2013

What America Really Runs On

Dunkin' Donuts claims that America runs on coffee; maybe, but what runs the 8 million commercial buildings and 250 million vehicles that support Americans day in and day out? The answer is 10,000 feet below you.

Together, petroleum and natural gas generate over 60% of the energy consumed in the United States; factor in coal and that percentage rises to 80%. Coal companies have created new, more efficient technologies to produce “clean coal” and natural gas companies have asserted that their fuel will power a greener, cleaner America. But don’t let these companies fool you; while their processes may have come a far way from just 15 years ago, “clean” and “green” are merely used as relative terms. 

Petroleum and coal consist of carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and other chemicals; natural gas is predominantly methane. These compounds produce energy when they are burned, but they also produce various pollutants. Petroleum and coal emit carbon monoxide (CO), which is typically transformed into the less potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) with a catalytic converter; sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are also emitted, both of which are toxic to humans and the environment and are known to cause acid rain. Further, fine particulate matter, in the form of sulfates and nitrates, are released, which cause smog and can lead to a variety of respiratory illnesses. Pollution reduction technologies and more efficient processes can reduce the amount of these compounds that are emitted, but they cannot eliminate them.

Natural gas is sometimes called a “clean energy” because, relative to petroleum and coal, natural gas emits less than 1/2 of the carbon dioxide and less than a 1/3 of the nitrogen oxide than petroleum or coal. While this is a “cleaner” source, it is a far cry from pollution-free.

The answer is in the wind.

 Since 2000, energy generation from wind power has grown over 900% in the United States, from 6 billion kilowatt hours to 140 billion kw hours! The future growth of wind power is strong: it is projected to grow another 19% in 2013. Part of this growth has been fueled by Federal incentives, such as tax credits, low-interest loans, and grants; further, several state governments have set up markets in which citizens and organizations can buy and sell both renewable energy credits and certificates, as well as establish Renewable Energy Portfolio standards, requiring utility providers to supply a certain amount of electricity from renewable energy sources.

 Even with this tremendous growth, however, wind power only accounts for 3.3% of all electricity generated in the United States. Federal and state incentives can only go so far and last for so long; in order to continue this growth in wind power consumers need to demand it. Contact your utility company and ask for renewable pricing - it is becoming increasingly competitive with other sources of energy. Further, speak with a local solar consultant to see if solar panels are a viable option for your home.

Breathe Easy

Here at Hostelling International Chicago, we are a voluntary E.P.A. Green Power Partner and derive 100% of our electricity from wind power. By purchasing renewable energy, HI Chicago is not only reducing its impact on the environment, but it is supporting growth in the renewable energy industry. The supply of renewable energy is only half the solution, however; we must also look at demand. 

At HI-Chicago, have replaced all of our incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and LEDs, which can be up to 85% more energy efficient! In addition to this, we have installed light occupancy sensors in many of our common areas, so lights are only on when necessary. These energy efficiency initiatives have had a great impact on reducing our energy consumption, but we could still use your help! Be sure to switch off your light when leaving the room and try taking the stairs next time you're about to board the elevator!


Friday, July 26, 2013

Lollapallooza Mixer at the Hotel! And Late Night Bar Crawl!

Kick off your Lollapalooza adventure at the Hostel!

It’s Lollapalooza Weekend in Chicago! Before venturing out on your musical weekend of fun, get to know some locals and other festival-goers.

What: A happy hour event to ring in the weekend of Lollapalooza, including 2 free drinks (beer, wine, or soda) and light snacks!
Who: Hostellers, Hostel Volunteers & Staff
When: Thursday, August 1st from 5-7pm

Where: Hostel Dining Room. Check in and get your drink tickets in the hostel library. Over 21 year olds need a valid form of identification in order to get a wristband for the drinks.

Lollapallooza Bar Crawl!

After you start out the night at HI-Chicago's Lollapalooza mixer, you're not going to want to stop the fun! Meet up with volunteers Ervin and Anna for a night on the town to kick off the festival weekend! You'll be going to one of Chicago's biggest party neighborhoods, Wicker Park. You MUST BE 21 or older, bring a valid driver's license or passport. $4.50 for CTA and money for drinks or food.

The Bars: Big Star, The Flat Iron, Pint Bar, Crocodile Lounge, Nick's Bar, and Debonair Social Club.

Coming up hot! Lollapallooza Weekend in Chicago


Lollapalooza is a three-day music festival that annually takes over the historic Grant Park in Chicago. This year the celebration falls on the three days of August 2-4. The event is so popular it is actually sold out. You name it, the 3-day passes, the 1-day passes, and the VIP passes. However, if you don't have a ticket as of yet and are dying to get in on this one of a kind music experience, a good place to look is at Stubhub where there are still 1 day passes to be found.
Other than that, the official Lollapalooza website is still selling Platinum Passes that include 
access to the air-conditioned hospitality areas, complimentary bar & catered meals, and access to above all else - air-conditioned restrooms.

The full lineup is as follows:
(If you want to see the official schedule of days and time, click here.)
Friday, Aug. 2:
The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Queens of the Stone Age, Steve Aoki, Thievery Corporation, Lana Del Rey, Flux Pavilion, Band of Horses, Hot Chip, Crystal Castles, Imagine Dragons, Frightened Rabbit, Dillon Francis, Smith Westerns, Disclosure.
Father John Misty, Ghost B.C., Modestep, Emeli Sande, Jessie Ware, Atlas Genius, Timeflies, Theophilus London, Monsta, IO Echo, Icona Pop, Chance the Rapper, Lance Herbstrong, Robert DeLong, Deep Vally, Twenty One Pilots, San Cisco, Hey Marseilles, Keys N Krates, the Neighbourhood, Pacific Air, American Authors, Houndmouth, Brick + Mortar, D-Pryde, Brite Lite Brite.
Saturday Aug. 3:
Mumford & Sons, the Postal Service, the National, the Lumineers, Kendrick Lamar, Eric Church, Steve Angello, Ellie Goulding, Azealia Banks, Local Natives, Dada Life, Matt & Kim, Foals, Death Grips, Court Yard Hounds, Adventure Club, Ben Howard, GriZ.
Charles Bradley, Heartless Bastards, Baauer, Haim, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, St. Lucia, Shovels & Rope, Little Green Cars, Family of the Year, 360, the Bright Light Social Hot, Reignwolf, Pujol, Planet Hemp, Cole Plante, Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R., Blondfire, Frontier Ruckus, Wheeler Brothers, the Dunwells, Supreme Cuts, Cherub, Wild Cub, Brooke Waggoner, Beast Patrol.

Sunday Aug. 4:
The Cure, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, Knife Party, Grizzly Bear, Major Lazer, Dog Blood, Two Door Cinema Club, Tegan and Sara, Beach House, Cat Power, 2 Chainz, Alt-J, the Vaccines, DIIV, Alex Clare, Baroness, Lianne La Havas, Wild Nothing.
Angel Haze, Wavves, Alvin Risk, Jake Bugg, Wild Belle, Art Department, MS MR, Guards, Kill the Noise, Skaters, the Orwells, Palma Violets, Astro, Machines are People Too, Yawn, Half Moon Run, the Mowgli’s, Wake Owl, Bear Mountain, O’Brother, Makeshift Prodigy.

Introducing New Blog Poster

Hello Chicago Travelers!

My name is Diana Zawojska, and I will be the brain behind updating the hostel blog site for a little while. The hostel provides something for every traveler, and reminds us all continuously how much of the city of Chicago there is to explore. A little bit about me, I am a student at DePaul university, studying Journalism and International Studies. In between working and volunteering, I love traveling, being outdoors, and I have an uncommon obsession with wearing black socks. I have an interest in a lot of things the world has to offer, I can find amusement in rock climbing, as well as painting the city skyline. I enjoy discovering new things to do and places to explore in Chicago. I’ve traveled to many of the biggest cities in the United States, and Chicago still is one of my favorites, with its amplitude of diversity, culture, and wide range of events and activities.

Talk to you all soon!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What You Don't Know Could Cost You

Do you switch off the lights when you leave the room? Do you shut off the TV and power down the computer when it's not being used? You are not alone; millions of Americans have turned to these simple energy-saving measures, whether it is to cut back on their utility bills or to appease their ecological conscience. Sometimes flipping off the switch, however, could still be costing you.

Many home appliances have standby or “sleep” modes that still draw power if they are plugged into an outlet, even when turned off. The U.S. EPA refers to this current as “standby power” and “vampire energy,” as it draws power from your home when the devices are turned off and are not serving any function. The amount of energy that is drawn from devices in standby mode is significant; the U.S. EPA estimates that standby power accounts for “more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs,” accounting for 5-10% of residential and 10-15% of total commercial energy consumption! Refer to the chart below for a list of common home and office devices and the corresponding standby power consumption:
Annual Standby Power Consumption (kWh)
Computer desktop
Computer monitor
Fax Machine

So how can you combat this problem?

Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products; these products draw minimal amounts of standby power. Unplug appliances and chargers when you are not using them. If you have several appliances near each other, plug them into a central power strip; therefore, you only need to switch off the power strip to effectively cut power to every attached device. For devices and outlets that are not easily accessible, it may be more practical to purchase “smart strip” power strips; these power strips sense when a device is either turned off or switched to standby mode and cuts all power to that specific device. 

Here at HI Chicago, we are mitigating our energy consumption by integrating smart strips into the offices and work areas. This will increase our energy efficiency by reducing the amount of energy drawn from office equipment, such as computers, printers and fax machines, when they are not in use. Find out more about standby power and what you can do by clicking on the U.S. EPA links below!