Cigarette butts, the No. 1 most-littered item, are impacting plant growth

July 22, 2019 by  
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In the frenzy to ban plastic utensils, foam containers, straws and single-use bags, the world’s No. 1 most-littered item has been mostly ignored: cigarette butts. Perhaps because they are small in size, two out of every three cigarettes are simply flung to the ground rather than properly disposed of. This adds up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts every year piling up in parks, cities and oceans. New research suggests that the butts are not just unsightly; they are also negatively impacting plants. A study published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety compared plants grown in soil containing cigarette butts with a group of control plants and found a significant difference. The plants grown in dirt with cigarettes had shoots that were up to 25 percent shorter with root biomass that was up to 60 percent smaller. Similar studies from as early as 1913 found similarly negative effects of cigarette smoke on plants , but few focus on the impact of butts within the soil. Related: California’s “Butt Lady” picks up 1M littered cigarette butts in 3.5 years Cigarettes are actually biodegradable but can take years to decompose. In the meantime, the discarded butts are filled with chemicals that, at this point, everyone knows are toxic and carcinogenic. Since the 1980s, urban and coastal clean-up events have reported that between 30 to 40 percent of the litter collected is typically cigarette butts. It is clearly a major issue in terms of pollution and waste, so why aren’t people outraged by it? Some environmental advocates argue that filters should be banned completely, since they have negligible health benefits to the smoker. Others argue that a deposit-and-return system could be established, where smokers must return their used butts in order to reclaim a deposit. This scheme seems fairly unlikely, but so did bans on plastic bags or diapers — yet municipalities and countries have successfully put them into effect. + Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety Via Phys.org Image via Pixabay

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Cigarette butts, the No. 1 most-littered item, are impacting plant growth

Scientists find a way to produce renewable energy from snow

April 18, 2019 by  
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Solar panels have trouble producing renewable energy whenever it snows. With winters expected to increase in severity because of  climate change , generating power in the cold, snowy season will likely become a major issue in years to come. Fortunately, scientists from UCLA just invented a way to produce energy from snow. The researchers call their handy device a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator (snow TENG). It works by generating power via static electricity. As explained by the lead scientist on the project, Richard Kaner, static electricity happens when a material that likes to give up electrons comes into contact with a material that captures them. Snow naturally carries a positive charge and gives electrons away freely, making it the perfect material to generate power. According to UCLA , the snow TENG is made out of silicone, which has a negative charge and actively captures positive electrons. Once the material gains positive electrons, the device gathers those charges and turns them into electricity. “The device can work in remote areas, because it provides its own power and does not need batteries,” Kaner shared. Kaner noted that the device does much more than produce renewable energy . The snow TENG can also calculate snow fall averages and tell you wind speed and direction. Kaner and his team hope to integrate their device into existing solar panels, which would give homeowners the option of producing plentiful energy throughout the year, not just in the warmer seasons. In addition to generating electricity, the device can also be used to track performance in winter sports. The TENG can monitor things like jumping, walking or running and can be easily added to the bottom of shoes given its flexibility. With further development, it is possible that the snow TENG will lead to other athletic monitoring devices that are completely self-powered. It is unclear when Kaner and his team plan to make their device available to the larger public. They produced the prototype using a 3D printer , an electrode and some silicone, making it one of the cheapest renewable energy devices on the market. + UCLA Via Gizmodo Image via Pixabay

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Scientists find a way to produce renewable energy from snow

Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

March 1, 2019 by  
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A new study shows that close to 2,000 sites across the U.K. have poor air quality due to excess pollution. The cities most affected by high levels of toxic gas were in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, all of which were tested well beyond what is considered safe. One of the main culprits behind the alarming numbers is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is considered one of the most harmful of urban pollutants. Kensington, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster all tested high in nitrogen dioxide in 2017. This gas irritates lungs and creates breathing issues. One of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide is vehicle emissions. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Earlier this week, London’s mayor announced a pollution alert as residents in the country enjoyed a rare warm spell for February. The warning was the first of its kind since last summer and was precipitated by light winds and lack of storms, which usually help drive away harmful gases. While poor air quality is a major issue across the country, London is about to initiate a plan to help clean things up. The city is establishing an ultra-low emission area in central London that will vastly improve air quality. The initiative is expected to remove around 45 percent of emissions by this spring. The researches who conducted the study are part of a group called Friends of the Earth. Based on their findings, the group called for better emission standards throughout the country and are urging ministers to tighten up government control. “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air,” one of the researchers, Simon Bowens, explained. Air pollution has been previously linked to major health problems in human populations, including heart disease, dementia and even miscarriages. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, which can damage lungs and even impact intelligence levels. If London’s new program is successful, hopefully other cities will follow suit and start improving air quality before it becomes an even bigger problem. Via The Guardian Images via Foto-Rabe

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Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

The Tesla Model S just got a tiny bit more affordable

April 18, 2017 by  
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Shortly after announcing that Tesla plans to cut its relatively more affordable Model S 60 and 60D from its lineup, the company revealed that it will also reduce the price of its new entry-level models, the 75 and 75D, by $5,000 to make up the price difference. It’s still $1,500 more than the previous model, but given that it retails for almost $70,000, that might not be a major issue for potential buyers. Those aren’t the only Model S variants to receive a price cut. The 90D’s base price is being cut from $89,500 to $87,500. If you want a car packed with more features, however, there’s bad news: the 100D and P100D are seeing a several thousand dollar price hike, as are Model X variants. There are also certain upgrades which are no longer available for the “entry level” cars, including smart air suspension on the 75 and 75D. And anyone interested in a high-amperage charger will have to shell out for the 100 or 100D. Related: Elon Musk announces all new Teslas will be self-driving It may seem strange for the company to make such dramatic changes to its lineup, but it makes sense when you consider the launch of the $35,000 Model 3 later this year. The company is cutting out the products that will overlap with the Model 3’s functionality – the new car’s battery capacity stops at 75kWh, so anyone who wants a more powerful vehicle will have an incentive to upgrade. The higher prices at the top of Tesla’s range will help make up for the low cost of the Model 3, allowing the company’s average prices to remain the same. While this might be a bit frustrating for anyone interested in a 100D, overall it will help make electric cars more affordable for the average consumer. Hopefully this will result in more Tesla vehicles on the street overall. Via Engadget Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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The Tesla Model S just got a tiny bit more affordable

This playful Airbnb treehouse near San Francisco lets you sleep in a 150-year-old oak tree

April 18, 2017 by  
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This amazing treehouse near San Francisco is built around a 150-year-old live oak tree. Linda and Doug Studebaker built the Bay area’s only Airbnb treehouse as a cozy overnight rental in the backyard of their hillside property in Burlingame, California , and furnished it with furniture that gives it an old-fashioned feel. Offering scenic views of the San Francisco Bay, Doug and Linda’s Treehouse is a private refuge nestled among the treetops of a quiet forested canyon, about a twenty-minute drive away from the city. Located 30ft in the air, with a wooden staircase leading up to the main space, the treehouse is not for the faint of heart. Related: Gorgeous Robin’s Nest Treehouse Hotel immerses you in nature Visitors can enjoy the sunset or sunrise with a beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay from the wrap-around deck. The interior features a comfy queen size bed, table, and a lower level chaise/reading nook. A private kitchenette and bathroom are located in the lower level of the owners’ log home, just 30 feet from the base of the treehouse. You can rent the house, ideal for two people, for $275 per night. + Doug and Linda’s Treehouse on Airbnb Photos via Airbnb

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This playful Airbnb treehouse near San Francisco lets you sleep in a 150-year-old oak tree

$4 Million Goes to MIT from French Oil Company for Solar Energy Battery Project

November 7, 2009 by  
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Total, a French oil company, recently agreed to give the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) $4 million for a 5-year research project to develop stationary batteries that can more efficiently store solar energy. More efficient energy storage has been a difficult issue for scientists to crack. It is a major issue preventing more widespread use of renewable energy, and solar energy in particular

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$4 Million Goes to MIT from French Oil Company for Solar Energy Battery Project

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