Rare earth minerals – those 17 valuable elements with myriad industrial, commercial, and military applications – have been the subject of a lot of hand wringing lately. They're in short supply (at least in processed form), and with the exception of China no nation in the world can readily mine them from the Earth and process them in large quantities.
Most houses require hundreds of feet of electrical wire to connect light switches to a main power source, but not my eco-friendly dream home. I’ve installed a wireless lighting system called Verve that uses radio waves instead of copper wiring to command all the lights and outlets in my house. The system not only saves copper (imagine the savings in a skyscraper) but also lets me put switches wherever I want—beside the kids’ beds, in my pocket or even on the dash of my car—without the need to pull out wires or rip up walls.
While the fate of America's Yucca Mountain appears to be sealed, Finnish company Posiva is moving forward with a cutting-edge nuclear waste storage facility that it claims will safely store radioactive waste in drums deep in the ground for 100,000 years. While challenges abound, a green light from the Finnish government expected by 2012 will make the site on Finland's Olkiluoto Island the first permanent nuclear waste repository in the world, opening the door for more to follow.