We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it’s accelerating

June 4, 2020 by  
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The Earth is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction , and it’s picking up speed. New research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences updates the threats first detailed in a 2015 study. Species are disappearing faster than previously thought, the new study says. The cascading effect of collapsing ecosystems is making the planet steadily less habitable for people as well. “When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” said Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, co-author of the paper, in a press release from Stanford University. “The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a national and global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to climate disruption to which it is linked.” Related: Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks The researchers analyzed numbers and distribution of critically endangered species. They determined that 515 species of terrestrial vertebrates have fewer than 1,000 individuals left, meaning they’re very close to extinction . Nearly half of those species have fewer than 250 surviving members, mostly due to human encroachment. The first five mass extinctions in the last 450 million years each destroyed 70% to 95% of animal, plant and microorganism species . Huge changes to the environment, such as asteroids, volcanic eruptions or depletion of oceanic oxygen caused the first five. The sixth, the study finds, is our doing. Almost all loss of species has happened since humans developed agriculture , about 11,000 years ago. Back then, there were only about a million of us. Now we number 7.7 billion, and that number is growing fast . “As our numbers have grown, humanity has come to pose an unprecedented threat to the vast majority of its living companions,” the study says. According to the study, it is a “moral imperative” for scientists to do whatever they can to stop extinction via the following suggestions: the International Union for Conservation of Nature should immediately classify any species with fewer than 5,000 remaining members as critically endangered; governments and institutions should elevate conservation of endangered species to a global emergency; illegal wildlife trade must stop now and the ban must be strictly enforced; and alternative food must be provided to low-income communities, especially in Africa, who depend on bush meat for survival. There’s no time to lose. “There is no doubt, for example, that there will be more pandemics if we continue destroying habitats and trading wildlife for human consumption as food and traditional medicines,” the study warns. “It is something that humanity cannot permit, as it may be a tipping point for the collapse of civilization.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Via Stanford News Service Image via Alex Strachan

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We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it’s accelerating

WKE LifeProof phone cases use recycled ocean-bound waste

May 7, 2020 by  
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In an effort to find a balance between protecting the significant investment in our cellular devices and protecting the planet, LifeProof has developed a phone case that sources materials diverted from the ocean  and simultaneously supports organizations directly involved in providing safe water, protecting ocean life and maintaining river habitat.  W?KE, the newest case line from LifeProof, is made from 85% recycled plastic waste. Materials for the protective case are sourced from fishing nets and ropes to help prevent those plastics from reaching the ocean. The plastics are then woven into a polypropylene material that is both durable and strong. This practice reduces the need to produce virgin plastic, and the company also offers a program to recycle your phone case when you decide to make a change.  Related: Adorable baby gorilla wants you to recycle your phone As a company, LifeProof has long strived to make its cases more sustainable and find ways to give back to the Earth. “LifeProof’s existence has centered around two things: a love of the water and an innate need to give back,” said Jim Parke, LifeProof CEO. “With this new case and the charitable partnerships we’ve formed, we’re not only creating products that help ensure a longer,  repurposed life for plastics  from the fishing industry, we’re supporting water organizations that can make an even larger impact than we would be able to alone.” The water organizations he refers to are long-established non-profits on a mission to provide clean water  to underprivileged communities, protect coral across the ocean floor and maintain healthy rivers for communities and wildlife.  According to a press release from LifeProof, “With the purchase any LifeProof case, including existing lines like FR?, NËXT and SL?M, and registration of the case at lifeproof.com/makewaves, we’ll donate a dollar to one of three charities who share our vision for a world with clean water for all – Water.org, the Coral Reef Alliance or American Rivers.” The W?KE case is currently available for the Apple iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11, iPhone XR, iPhone SE (2nd Generation), iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+. It is also available to preorder for Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Cases are priced at $39.99. + LifeProof  Images via LifeProof 

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WKE LifeProof phone cases use recycled ocean-bound waste

Invasive "murder hornets" arrive in US, threaten honeybees

May 7, 2020 by  
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If you’ve been itching to get back to the outside world, two words might make you think again: murder hornets. For the first time, these gigantic, invasive hornets have been spotted in the U.S., which could be a problem for both humans and honeybees . The Washington State Department of Agriculture verified four sightings of Vespa mandarinia — the official name for the Asian giant hornet — last December. But after The New York Times recently reported on them, murder hornets have moved into the limelight. Related: How to live harmoniously with bees and wasps The black-and-yellow hornets measure up to two inches long and have bulging eyes. “They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, bee breeder at Washington State University’s (WSU) Department of Entomology. “It’s a shockingly large hornet,” Todd Murray, WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist, said. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees.” The hornets are native to the forests and mountains of eastern and southeast Asia, where they feast on large insects . One of their favorite foods is the European honeybee. Scientists in Washington worry that if the hornets spread, they could decimate the state’s honeybees, which farmers rely on to pollinate apple and cherry crops. Invasive species like murder hornets can permanently alter an ecosystem. “Just like that, it’s forever different,” Murray said. “We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance.” WSU and the state agriculture department are working with beekeepers and volunteers to locate the enormous hornets before they become too active again. April is the month when queens usually emerge from hibernation, so the hornets are just getting started. Obviously, the consequences will be devastating if these creatures manage to spread across the country. While humans are not the hornets’ typical target, the hornets will attack anything if they feel threatened. When a group of hornets attack, they can inject as much venom as a snake bite. Murder hornets kill up to 50 people in Japan every year. + Washington State University Image via LiCheng Shih

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‘I Am a Plastic Bag’ is made from recycled single-use plastic bottles

March 2, 2020 by  
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Following the sold-out success of “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” in 2007, designer brand Anya Hindmarch has launched a new product, called “I Am a Plastic Bag”, aimed at recycling single-use plastic and leaving behind a net-zero carbon footprint from production. The initial “I Am Not a Plastic Bag” release was a campaign to raise awareness about disposable plastic bag usage. According to a press release from the company, “The British Retail Consortium estimated that in 2006, the U.K. alone used 10.6bn plastic bags, and this figure dropped to 6.1bn in 2010. Specifically, Sainsbury’s cut the number of bags they gave away by 58% in the two years that followed the campaign, giving out 312m fewer bags in 2008 than 2009 and saving 13,200 tonnes of virgin plastic over two years.” Related: Patagonia’s Black Hole Bags are made from recycled plastic bottles Thirteen years later, Hindmarch has decided to shift focus. Instead of centering the campaign around reducing plastic bag usage, the new “I Am a Plastic Bag” is made from a soft, cotton-like fabric constructed from recycled plastic bottles to spotlight the excessive waste generated from single-use plastic. The manufacturing process begins by washing and sorting the collected bottles before they are shredded and turned into pellets. The pellets are then converted into fibers that are spun and woven into fabric . To achieve the weather-resistant finish, the bags are coated in a recycled PVB made from old windshields. Anya Hindmarch partnered with a Taiwanese company for the finish, which appears to be the only one of its kind that has achieved Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certification. After considering faux options, the company decided the least impactful trim was real leather. It sourced the natural meat byproduct as a way to recycle the material. Collected from a tannery in Northern Italy, the leather doesn’t travel far to the manufacturing line. While Anya Hindmarch designers don’t believe that carbon-offsetting is the answer for an industry known for excessive waste and pollution , they also partnered with EcoAct, a global climate change consultant. EcoAct has been measuring the emissions from the I Am a Plastic Bag production in order to make the process carbon-neutral. As a statement of what the line stands for, Anya Hindmarch closed its doors for three days, completely filling the store with 90,000 discarded plastic water bottles and a post on the door explaining the cause. A limited selection of bags was pre-launched in February at London Fashion Week, and the complete four-color collection will be widely available in April. + Anya Hindmarch Images via Anya Hindmarch

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‘I Am a Plastic Bag’ is made from recycled single-use plastic bottles

Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

October 7, 2019 by  
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While Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s cacao, very little chocolate is made on the continent. Instead, most of the raw material is shipped to other countries that then produce delicious chocolates. But De Villiers Chocolate is now working on becoming the first African-made, sustainably sourced chocolate brand available in the U.S. “Once we discovered the cocoa beans of the vibrant Bundibugyo region in Uganda , we began to realize the potential of the journey we had embarked upon,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO and master chocolatier at De Villiers Chocolate. “It became our mission to create a chocolate brand true to its origin and the exotic taste of Africa .” Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa De Villiers Chocolate currently sells its products at its studio on a historic Cape Dutch estate, online and through an upmarket grocery chain in South Africa. Now, De Villiers Chocolate has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help bring its chocolate to the U.S. From humble origins in a garage 10 years ago, De Villiers Chocolate has now grown into a Capetown, South Africa-based business producing chocolate, ice cream and coffee in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cocoa and coffee qualify for three voluntary sustainable standards: Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ . De Villiers ethically sources all ingredients. It does not use palm oil, for the health of rainforests and the planet in general. It does not add artificial flavors, colorants, stabilizers, preservatives or hydrogenated vegetable oils to its chocolate. The company uses unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener, and the De Villiers dark chocolate is vegan. In a press release, De Villiers noted that Africans have not historically profited much from chocolate, despite the fact that most of the world’s cacao crop is grown there. “So how does Africa achieve sustainability ? Not by charity; charity to Africa is not sustainable. The only truly long-term endeavor is to facilitate and allow Africans to do it for themselves,” the press release reads. Through its sustainable sourcing and mission-driven products, De Villiers Chocolate is trying to put Africa on the map as a home to world-renowned chocolate artisans. + De Villiers Chocolate Image via De Villiers Chocolate

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McDonald’s new paper straws: thick, soggy, hard to recycle

August 7, 2019 by  
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Looks like the shakes at some McDonald’s restaurants aren’t the only things that are thick. Word is the fast food chain’s paper straws introduced a year ago to keep in tune with “protecting the environment” are hard to recycle , because they are too thick and become soggy in drinks. The new paper straws were introduced in 2018 after a trial basis to 1,361 McDonald’s franchises located throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Related: McDonald’s creates McHives to raise awareness of the world’s decreasing bee populations. The problem with these straws was first reported by the U.K.’s The Sun newspaper, which published an internal McDonald’s memorandum stating the fast food chain’s paper straws “are not yet recyclable and should be disposed of in general waste until further notice.” “While the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups,” a McDonald’s spokesman told the U.K.’s Press Association news agency. Although the original plastic straws could be recycled more easily, the European Union along with the British government has opted to move to banning plastic straws by 2020 and wants chains like McDonald’s to halt using such products. “The government’s ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic , and I’m proud that we’ve been able to play our part in helping to achieve this societal change,” Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland, said in a press release at the time. Not surprisingly, the new paper straws haven’t been much of a hit from the get-go, according to other reports. For example, many social media users have been busy commenting that the paper straws get too soggy in drinks. Additionally, a formal petition asking McDonald’s to return to its former plastic straws has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Via CNN Image via Meghan Rodgers

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McDonald’s new paper straws: thick, soggy, hard to recycle

Wild bees are building nests with plastic

June 10, 2019 by  
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While plastic use is going out of vogue with more enlightened humans, it’s catching on with Argentinian bees. Scientists don’t know why Argentina’s solitary bees are now constructing nests out of plastic packaging left on crop fields. Unlike the large hive model with queens and workers, wild bees lay larvae in individual nests. Researchers at Argentina’s National Agricultural Technology Institute constructed 63 wooden nests for wild bees from 2017 to 2018. They later found that three nests were entirely lined with pieces of plastic that bees had cut and arranged in an overlapping pattern. The plastic seemed to have come from plastic bags or a similar material, with a texture reminiscent of the leaves bees usually use to line nests. Related: McDonald’s creates McHives to raise awareness of the world’s decreasing bee populations The scientists’ study, published in Apidologie, is the first to find nests entirely made from plastic. But researchers have known for years that bees sometimes incorporate plastic into nests otherwise made of natural materials . Canadian scientists have chronicled bees’ use of plastic foams and films in Toronto. Like the Argentinian bees, bees in Canada cut the plastic to mimic leaves. Scientists aren’t yet sure what to make of this architectural development. “It would demonstrate the adaptive flexibility that certain species of bees would have in the face of changes in environmental conditions,” Mariana Allasino, the Argentinian study’s lead author, wrote in a press release translated from Spanish. But will the plastic harm the bees? More research is required to gauge the risks. While microplastics are a huge threat to marine animals, some enterprising creatures find ways to use trash to their advantage. Finches and sparrows arrange cigarette butts in their nests to repel parasitic mites. Stinky but effective. “Sure it’s possible it might afford some benefits, but that hasn’t been shown yet,” entomologist Hollis Woodard told National Geographic. “I think it’s equally likely to have things that are harmful.” Via National Geographic Image via Judy Gallagher

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New nanofoam catalyst generates hydrogen from water quickly and cheaply

February 6, 2018 by  
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Extra electricity from renewable energy could be used to split water to obtain hydrogen – but methods to accomplish this are usually prohibitively expensive, need too much power, or draw on catalyst materials that too rapidly break down. A research team led by Washington State University (WSU) came up with a potential answer. They developed, per a press release , “a way to more efficiently generate hydrogen from water” with a sponge-like nanofoam catalyst created with the inexpensive metals iron and nickel. Hydrogen could serve as renewable fuel in a clean energy future, but it can be difficult to generate. New Atlas said the cleanest method to obtain hydrogen from water is electrolysis , but the process typically needs rare-Earth metals for catalysts. This research team drew on two abundantly available and inexpensive metals to create a catalyst they say actually performs better than many others. Related: Startup creates renewable hydrogen energy out of sunlight and water Researchers developed a simple method to create a lot of a catalyst needed for the water-splitting reaction – and it takes five minutes. Their porous nanofoam looks much like a sponge and can catalyze the reaction using less power than others thanks to “its unique atomic structure and many exposed surfaces throughout the material.” WSU said it “showed very little loss in activity in a 12-hour stability test.” WSU PhD student Shaofang Fu said in a statement, “We took a very simple approach that could be used easily in large-scale production.” They hope to gain more support to scale up the project. Beyond potential use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles , the university said hydrogen has a variety of uses in industry. The work appears in the February issue of the journal Nano Energy . Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed. + Washington State University + Nano Energy Via New Atlas Images via Washington State University via Phys.org

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Airless tires could help Toyota make lighter electric cars

October 30, 2017 by  
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Airless tires could boost performance and cut down the weight of electric cars – and Toyota is interested. The automaker recently unveiled the hydrogen-powered Fine-Comfort Ride concept car fitted with the tires at the Tokyo Motor Show . The Fine-Comfort Ride is about as big as a crossover SUV, but chief engineer Takao Sato said the airless wheels could be used on any electric car. The airless tires on the Fine-Comfort Ride are comprised of a band of rubber around a plastic-aluminum hub, reports Bloomberg . Sumitomo Rubber Industries supplied the tires for Toyota . Sumitomo unveiled their Smart Tyre Concept, which includes the airless component, at the Tokyo Motor Show and said in a press release , “Airless tires contribute to greater safety and peace of mind in transportation by freeing the driver from worries about punctures and the trouble of having to manage tire pressure.” Sumitomo said there’s interest from other Japanese carmakers as well. Related: Michelin unveils airless 3D-printed tires that last virtually forever Sato said, “For automakers, the attraction of airless tires is for electrified vehicles.” At the moment the concept tires still weigh about as much as pneumatic tires, but the technology could develop to trim five kilograms – around 11 pounds – from each tire. That’s around 30 percent of each tire’s weight, and the development could come as early as 2025. Sumitomo airless tire project head Wako Iwamura said he aims to have a commercial product by 2020, according to Bloomberg, and that his tires are already comparable in price with those requiring air. The company has already been testing the tires on golf carts and minicars. Sumitomo also pioneered what they called the world’s first 100 percent fossil resource-free tires using all-natural materials back in 2013, and said since then they’ve been working to create “proprietary biomass materials based on raw materials derived from plants .” Via Bloomberg Images via Toyota

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Your Next Dell Could Come with Wireless Charging Capabilities

March 4, 2014 by  
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Dell likes to be first. They were the first to market laptops directly to college freshmen through bro-friendly language , first to ship their computers in mushroom-based packaging , and, if their recent move is any indication, the first to take wireless charging capabilities mainstream. According to a press release, Dell recently became the first major PC manufacturer to support a wireless charging standard by joining the Alliance for Wireless Power  (A4WP). Despite the obvious genius of wireless charging technology, technology makers have been slow to adopt it, and though growing, the number of third-party wireless charging options are ridiculously low. That’s all something that could change with Dell and other A4WP members leading the way. Read the rest of Your Next Dell Could Come with Wireless Charging Capabilities Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: A4WP , Alliance for Wireless Power , dell computers , dell laptops , wireless chargers , wireless charging , wireless charging capabilities , wireless charging laptops        

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