"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

September 24, 2018 by  
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Playful in its design and highly functional, SunMade Cheese features a charger for flashlights, lighters, radios and even cellphones powered by mere sunlight. The device was developed by YOLK, the solar company applauded for its Kickstarter project ‘Solar Paper’ in 2015 that has sold millions of dollars worth of units worldwide. This time, it seems whimsy has struck the cutting-edge solar tech firm, which decided to express its love of cheese in this new project. Continuing its sun-charged aspirations, the group has debuted quirky, cheese-plate-shaped solar panels and cheese-shaped, solar-powered accessories with a meaningful mission to boot. YOLK is eager to attract current generations to solar energy , making it easy to incorporate the technology in their daily routines. The group also hopes to improve energy infrastructure and conservation in developing nations as well as put an end to child labor, instead empowering families to send children to school. Rather than tackling these issues separately (as is common), YOLK decided to put its creativity to the test and develop the Solar Cow in conjunction with the new cheese chargers. The Solar Cow systems are much larger solar energy generators built with a portion of the revenue that YOLK receives from SunMade Cheese. The company is deploying the conductive cows in remote areas of East Africa that are burdened by poor energy infrastructure. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art As many as one in every five children are prevented from attending school in East Africa. Families rely on child labor to supplement the household income. Besides providing power to local schools , the Solar Cow will provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school instead of sending them off to work. In the mornings, students are able to attach batteries to the “cow’s udders” for charging and take them home at night with a full supply of free, clean energy. “The SunMade Cheese project is more about enjoying solar power and promoting education for solar technology, but the Solar Cow is really a lifeline for people,” YOLK CEO Sen Chang explained. “They are two projects for two different perspectives, but combined in one initiative.” Families in rural areas commonly travel around four to six hours in order to reach a charging station to juice up their cellphones. The mobile phones are a necessity, because they facilitate communication to the rest of the world and a means to make payments and receive income. The cost of this process is astounding, with the average family spending approximately 10-20 percent of their total monthly earnings to simply charge their cellular devices an average of 10-12 times per month. The SunMade Cheese charger is the perfect accessory to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle at home while assisting YOLK’s efforts to help communities abroad. Stressing creativity and efficiency, the award-winning innovators deserve to bask in the sunlight for their life-changing technological designs . No doubt, many will join them — cheese plate in hand! + YOLK Images via YOLK

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"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags

September 24, 2018 by  
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A popular supermarket chain in the U.K. is taking a step toward bettering the environment by putting a stop to plastic waste . Co-op recently announced plans to use compostable shopping bags, which double as biodegradable bags for food waste, in all of its stores. The new bags will replace the old single-use plastic bags. Co-op is introducing the eco-friendly bags over the next few weeks. Stores in England, Wales and Scotland will receive the bags first, followed by outlets across the rest of the U.K. Related: Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025 The chain has tested other versions of the bags since 2014 and is rolling them out in locations where local food waste companies can accept them. The company estimates that the new bags will save around 60 million plastic bags from ending up in landfills. The biodegradable bags are part of Co-op’s larger strategy to lessen its impact on the environment. This includes launching initiatives to tackle healthy eating, food waste and energy savings. The company plans to completely phase out plastic bags over the next five years and stop selling black plastic — which is difficult to recycle — altogether. Co-op hopes to be plastic free by 2023 and plans on using at least 50 percent recycled plastic in other products, such as pots, trays and bottles. Co-op is not the only supermarket in the U.K. that is removing plastic from its stores. This past week, Lidl U.K. announced plans to stop using plastic trays for fruit and vegetables by the end of September. The company also pledged to ditch plastic from its meat sections by Summer 2019. Asda also announced that it is halfway through with its plastic reduction goal for the year, while Waitrose has vowed to stop using plastic for loose veggies and fruit by Spring 2019. + Co-op Via The Guardian Image via Co-op

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UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags

What sub-Saharan Africa shows us about serving communities that are ‘under the grid’

September 19, 2018 by  
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Entrepreneurs are increasingly investing in clean minigrids to cover unreliable utility services.

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What sub-Saharan Africa shows us about serving communities that are ‘under the grid’

Measuring progress to SDGs with a chemicals management survey

September 19, 2018 by  
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We worry about our carbon footprints. What about our chemical footprints?

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Measuring progress to SDGs with a chemicals management survey

SAOTA’s Benguela Cove design takes rooms with a view seriously

July 27, 2018 by  
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When you announce you’ve moved into a home on a cove, the first image that comes to mind is a house with glorious views. And on that front, this house from SAOTA Architecture and Design with interiors by ARRCC does not disappoint. Located within the Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate in South Africa , this modern home affords spectacular vistas from nearly every room on all levels – even from the bathtub. Perched just above the seashore of Benguela Cove Wine Estate in the Overberg region of the Western Cape , the sprawling home looks out over the Botrivier Lagoon and Overberg Mountains. Every material, inside and out, pays homage to natural resources , accented with subdued materials including steel and corrugated aluminum. The cerulean skies and azure water of the cove make the timber exterior and aluminum roof pop against the deep green landscape. The bedroom wing on the first floor sits atop the home’s living areas; each room has a panoramic view of the cove and adjoining greenery. The bathtub in the master bathroom has a window with a clear view of the mountains and cove. The landing below overlooks a courtyard before you step inside the living quarters. Related: One in four of world’s largest cities under water stress Huge blocks of granite flank the kitchen island and contrast with the brilliantly polished countertop, making it the focal point of the room. The light wood cabinets soften the kitchen, which overlooks the flowing design of the lounge and dining areas. The sweeping views go on, as does the theme of wood slats on the ceiling and granite floors. Relaxation is the theme of the living room. A colossal concrete hearth wall surrounds the fireplace and oversized picture window, and finely crafted pre-weathered steel cloaks the flues. Al fresco dining and socializing take place in an outdoor dining and kitchen area with an inviting and spacious sun deck. A staircase with glass railing and a CNC-cut timber screen background adds yet another tactile touch to the décor. + ARRCC + SAOTA Architecture and Design Photography by Adam Letch

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SAOTA’s Benguela Cove design takes rooms with a view seriously

How solar minigrids could brighten economic prospects for unserved millions in Africa

June 7, 2018 by  
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The demand from grain mills, water pumping, health clinics, barbershops and countless other businesses is there.

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How solar minigrids could brighten economic prospects for unserved millions in Africa

How we can effectively shift to a global circular economy

June 7, 2018 by  
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Five ways that the world wastes so much stuff (and why it’s not just consumers’ fault).

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How we can effectively shift to a global circular economy

Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

May 24, 2018 by  
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According to new research from an international team of scientists, the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may cause a decrease in the nutritional value of  rice . Published in the journal Science Advances , the study concludes that rice contains lower levels of four essential B vitamins when grown under atmospheric conditions similar to those expected by the end of the 21st century. This aligns with similar studies that found that higher levels of carbon dioxide can result in reduced amounts of protein, iron and zinc in rice. The scientists conducted the study using 18 common strains of rice grown in fields in China and Japan. For the first time, research reveals that vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9, all of which are important to the body’s ability to turn food into energy, decrease in rice as carbon dioxide levels increased. “This is an underappreciated risk of burning of fossil fuels and deforestation,” study co-author and director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment Kristie Ebi said in a statement . The adverse effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide reflect the unanticipated consequences of climate change. “People say more CO2 is plant food, and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethno-pharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies — in ways that we don’t yet understand,” study co-author Lewis Ziska said. Related: Chinese scientists created a type of rice that can grow in saltwater The conclusion that rice will become less nutritional as climate change continues carries significant consequences for more than two billion people who depend on the grain as their primary food source. “Rice has been a dietary staple for thousands of years for many populations in Asia and is the fastest growing food staple in Africa,” Ebi said. “Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people.” Via University of Washington School of Public Health Images via University of Washington School of Public Health and  Depositphotos

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Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 9, 2018 by  
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The deadly virus Ebola has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A new outbreak of Ebola stuck the northwest town of Bikoro with 21 suspected cases of the virus. Out of five samples sent to the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) , only two were positive for Ebola. In 1976, the first case of Ebola was documented in the DRC, and there has been nine outbreaks of the virus since then. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected 28,000, killed 11,000 and shocked the world. However, the virus ‘s latest reemergence in the DRC is no reason to panic. Previous outbreaks in the DRC have been contained thanks in part to the country’s vast, largely inaccessible land area, which inhibits travel and trade between towns. The DRC’s last Ebola outbreak occurred in the village of Likati in 2017, however the virus was contained within forty-two days. Related: Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak Led by Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the first scientist to document Ebola, the INRB is experienced in responding to Ebola outbreaks. “We’re advanced in public health ,” an epidemiologist at the INRB told the Atlantic . “If you compare us with Europe or the U.S., eh, but here in Africa, we are high. We have experience.” Early monitoring and reporting is key to success. “We have a surveillance system that works,” Kinshasa School of Public Health leader Emile Okitolonda said. “Here, nurses know that if they see a suspected case, they report it.” The INRB will also receive expert assistance from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in responding to Ebola. The primary challenge in the DRC is a lack of resources – a problem that may be exacerbated by President Trump ‘s recent request to cut $252 million in funding for international Ebola relief. Congress must decide within 45 days whether to act on Trump’s request. If they do nothing, as they are wont to do, the funding will remain in place. + INRB Via The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Depositphotos

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New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

April 19, 2018 by  
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8.5 billion plastic straws are tossed out in the United Kingdom every year, according to a recent study cited by the government . They plan to take action — by ending sales of plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic drink stirrers and straws in a bid to reduce ocean plastic waste. The UK is cracking down on ocean plastic . The government announced the ban at the summit for the Commonwealth heads of government. Prime Minister Theresa May said, “ Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world…the British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbead ban .” Related: Queen of England bans plastic bottles and straws at royal estates The ban won’t take effect immediately; the statement said the government would work with industries to ensure time to adapt and create alternatives. Plastic straws utilized for medical reasons could also be excluded from the ban. May challenged other countries in the Commonwealth, which includes 53 member countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Caribbean, to battle marine plastic as well. The UK government is committing to £61.4 million, around $87.4 million, in funding for research and better waste management for developing countries , according to May, who said, “The Commonwealth is a unique organization, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments, and coastlines. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.” The UK government’s microbead ban went into effect in January of this year, and their five pence single-use plastic bag law has resulted in nine billion fewer bags distributed, according to the government. Another statistic the government drew on to back the plastic straw scheme is that one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals perish due to eating plastic waste and getting tangled in it. They also said there are more than 150 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans on our planet. + United Kingdom Government Images via Depositphotos and Carly Jayne on Unsplash

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UK plans to ban the sales of plastic straws to tackle ocean plastic pollution

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