Cigarette butts, that is. Yeah, you should NOT smoke these things. But if you’re gonna — well, check out this July AP story:

In New Orleans, discarded butts are being turned into something useful.

The first of 50 cigarette butt recycling receptacles was installed at a downtown intersection Monday. Developers of the program say New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort launched in Canada last year.

Trenton, New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle Inc. developed the program in 2012. The first citywide receptacles were placed in Vancouver, B.C., in November 2013.

“Globally we have collected 25 million butts since November of 2012,” said company spokesman Albe Zakes . . .

OK — so, exactly WHAT does one make from recycled cigarette butts?

The organic materials, such as tobacco and paper, are composted.

Cigarette filters, though they look and feel like fiber, are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic. Once collected, they are shredded and bio-toxins removed with the use of gamma radiation, Zakes said.

“It’s the same exact process used on fish and other meats to assure there are no bio-contaminants, so it is very safe,” Zakes said.

The filters are then melted into plastic pellets for industrial use in the same way a plastic bottle would be recycled, Zakes said.

“We only use the pellets for industrial applications, such as plastic lumber and plastic shipping pallets,” he said. “We don’t make any consumer products from this material, mostly because of the stigma around butts.”

From NEMA’s ei magazine (p18 of the magazine, p20 of the PDF), article written by a Precision Paragon executive:

In 2010, the average cost per lumen of a commercial or industrial LED fixture was approximately 12 cents per lumen.

Today, that cost has dropped to approximately five cents per lumen, installed. While comparable fluorescent fixtures might cost three cents per lumen, the optical efficiency of LED lighting allows us to achieve the same lighting results with fewer lumens and far fewer watts.

Reed Construction Data has a table (only part of which is shown below) providing a gauge of the material and labor costs in 20 U.S. cities and 10 in Canada. The data cover the year to April 2014.

Material costs are on the left, Labor on the right. The “unweighted average” of the 20 U.S. cities was +3.8% for material, + 1.7% for labor.

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as graphed by Black & Veatch in one of its online newsletters:

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From the Chicago Trib (7/9/14):

Chicago is offering rooftop solar panel installations through the summer at 25 percent below market

The idea, announced Wednesday, is to jumpstart solar installations in the city, according to Chicago’s Chief Sustainability Officer Karen Weigert. Similar programs have kicked off hundreds of installations in other regions, she said.

“We think of this as a way to bring more people into thinking about solar as an option,” she said. “And as the market gets stronger with more installations happening in Chicago, we expect there to be more and more growth.”

The city is paying nothing under the program, which stems from a World Wildlife Fund grant. WWF contracted with Vote Solar and the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center to administer the program.

From US Builders Review:

Although Gene retired in 2010, Clinton continues to forge ahead with a solid customer base and trusted reputation for second-to-none quality. “We’re now in our second generation of ownership,” says Pam. “Wayne Clinton, my brother, is our vice president and one of our lead field superintendents working as an electrician. Owen Allen, my husband and vice president of Clinton, was the second person my father hired many years ago as an estimator and he’s been with the company for 28 years. Owen now manages all construction aspects of the company.”

With family ownership and a network of longstanding union electricians Clinton remains a steady competitor in southern Illinois despite recent market challenges. “We now have 26 electricians and nine employees in the office, which is on the low side,” reveals Pam. “A few years ago we had 100 electricians in the field, because we had several large projects going. It all really depends on the economy and our workload.”

Even in a slow market, Pam says Clinton continues to attract repeat clients by operating what she explains as the Clinton Way. “What sets us apart in our region is our top-notch quality workforce,” she conveys.

“We have 20 to 25 foremen that have been with us for many years. When we get a good person, we do everything we can to keep them. We have great pride in our workforce and a core group of foremen and electricians that has made for repeat business.”

From Grist.org:

One of my fascinating reads this past weekend was a profile in the New Yorker of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, Shigeru Ban.

The Tokyo-born architect has been lauded for his use of renewable materials such as paper tubes, bamboo, and recycled fabrics — as well as things as unconventional as beer crates and shipping containers — to create housing and other structures. Ban is also known for his dedication to people who are assigned low priority in society when it comes to high society design . . .

What was interesting, though, was that despite all the green trappings, Ban shunned any green labeling of his work.

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According to Energy.gov, these fellows are building an “advanced, super-efficient office tower.”

That’s what the Eye On Housing blog from the home builders claims, here.

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Here’s the Washington Post article – and a bit from it:

After the annual growth rate for health care spending averaged 6.6 percent between 2000 and 2007, it shrank to just 3.3 percent each year between 2008 and 2011, according to the authors’ analysis of federal data. During those three years, the slumping economy accounted for 70 percent of the spending slowdown, according to a new peer-reviewed study from economists at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

A separate working paper released Monday from the Brookings Institution also argues the slowdown is largely the result of the two previous recessions.

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EleBlog NOTE: The increase did not go away, it’s just a smaller year-over-year (and year-after-year) INCREASE. Health care spending IS going up, constantly. The rate of increase is slowing . . . it’s still more costly every time you need some kind of medical help or medication.