Engineers invent origami-inspired self-watering pots that are made from 100% recycled materials

August 26, 2019 by  
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The summer months are a wonderful time to go exploring unknown parts of the world, but traveling for weeks on end means certain death for most house plants, until now. A team of plant-loving engineers have designed an innovative self-watering plant pot. POTR Pots are flat pack plant pots designed to self-water plants and are made from 100% recycled materials . POTR Pots were invented by Scottish designers, Andrew Flynn and Martin Keane, who happen to also be serious plant lovers. According to Flynn and Keane, who have just recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign featuring their innovative design, the prototype is the plant pot for the 21st century. Related: Recycling can get kids free books in southern Italy The team embarked on their invention by creating an eco-friendly design using 100% recycled materials, which can be recycled at the end of the pots’ life span. All of the materials used in the design, mainly recycled polypropylene , were sourced from nearby locations to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint. Using recycled polypropylene means that the pots are not only eco-friendly , but incredibly flexible and durable. The pots won’t break into a million bits like regular clay pots if dropped. Additionally, the material allows for folding origami hinges , which enable the product to be flat-packed. To open the pots, just pull on the Bobbiny recycled cotton cord and the pot is ready for use. Before adding in the plant itself, two ends of the cord must be looped under the inner pot stand and  inserted into the plant’s soil. The cotton cord allows the plant to suck up water when thirsty. Besides being incredibly practical and user-friendly, the pots, which come in various sizes, are incredibly eco-friendly. According to the designers, the POTR pots have almost 100 times less CO2 than clay or concrete plant pots, due to the use of recycled materials as well as the flat-pack design which reduces transport costs. + POTR Pots Via BBC Images via POTR Pots

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Engineers invent origami-inspired self-watering pots that are made from 100% recycled materials

Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

August 26, 2019 by  
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Researchers at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium announced that they have managed to make a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. This is the first such successful attempt at Atlantic coral reproduction in a lab setting and could have important implications for saving barrier reefs. “Project Coral” is a program the aquarium designed in partnership with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens . The objective: to create large coral egg deposits in a laboratory and ultimately repopulate the Florida Reef Tract. Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Florida’s coral reefs are the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem. This phenomenal system, often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, which are west of the Florida Keys. Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contain about two-thirds of the reef tract. But pollution , climate change and the orange sponge that invades the weakened reefs have destroyed much of the ecosystem. Can Project Coral heal the threatened reefs? “It’s pure excitement to be the first to achieve a breakthrough in the world,” Roger Germann, CEO of the Florida Aquarium, told CNN . “Our team of experts cracked the code … that gives hope to coral in the Florida Reef Tract and to coral in the Caribbean and Atlantic Oceans.” The researchers started working with Staghorn coral in 2014 but then shifted their concentration to pillar coral. Devastated by disease, pillar coral are now almost extinct . Unfortunately, the female and male clusters are too far apart to reproduce. The aquarium’s coral greenhouses use high-tech gear like LED technology and computerized systems to imitate the real reef ecosystem and send out signals to encourage reproduction. The aquarium has proven doubters wrong — it is possible to generate native Atlantic coral spawn in a laboratory. It’s still too early to determine how this controlled experiment will transfer to all the variables involved in repopulating a wild reef. But this success has spurred scientists’ positive attitudes about a happy future for both the reef and Florida’s tourism economy. Germann said, “Now there really is hope … I think we can save it.” Via CNN Image via National Park Service

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Could the Florida Aquarium save ‘Americas Great Barrier Reef?’

G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

August 26, 2019 by  
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Known as The Fashion Pact, a group of 32 major luxury brands, labels and companies, such as Adidas, Burberry, Kering, Hermes, Nike, Prada and Puma, shared its ideas to improve sustainability in the fashion industry at the G7 summit from August 24 to 26. While addressing French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday, some of the pact’s members said they would focus on using other options in their work in order to protect forests and minimize plastic usage. Related: Zara pledges 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025 At the summit, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “We know that one company cannot solve the environmental challenges facing our planet alone, and we believe in the power of collaboration to drive real change.” Some of the pact’s ideas include pledging to 100 percent renewable energy for operations by 2030; removing microfiber pollution; boosting biodiversity and creating eco-friendly agricultural, mining and forestry processes; and cutting back on single-use plastics in packaging by 2030. The fashion industry initiative came to fruition in early 2019, when Macron asked François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of Kering Group, which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, to form a coalition that discusses how the industry’s current practices impact the environment . Pinault talked about his ideas for the coalition at the Copenhagen fashion summit in May, according to The Guardian . “This has nothing to do with competition,” he told delegates at the time. “It’s a matter of leadership. Alone it is useless, you have to work with your peers. We might not succeed, but we will achieve more than not doing anything.” Several key fashion companies have been criticized for not addressing recent wildfires in the Amazon rainforest , despite donating millions of euros toward the restoration of the Notre Dame. Macron described the situation in the Amazon as an international crisis on Friday and said he wanted it to be addressed as a key issue at the 45th G7 summit. Via The Guardian and Reuters Image via Tokatlian

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G7 summit: Fashion companies make a pact to protect the planet

German court rules mass killing of male chicks legal

June 14, 2019 by  
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This month, the Federal Administrative Court in Germany ruled to uphold the common practice of killing male chicks, which are widely considered inefficient for meat production. The ruling is meant to be temporary, until an alternative and scalable solution is available, despite outcry by animal rights advocates. The hearing is in response to a ban of the practice from 2013 within a state in Germany. Following the ban, two major hatcheries challenged the decision, claiming that the practice was necessary for food production. On Thursday, the courts ruled that the practice was indeed legal– at least temporarily– and does not contradict the country’s Animal Welfare Act. Germany’s Minister for Agriculture, however, stated that the practice is ethically unacceptable. Related:Free at last: Canada passes Act to prohibit dolphin and whale captivity Male chicks are mass slaughtered throughout the world. They do not grow as fast as hens, and therefore are considered inefficient for meat production. The meat industry will be worth worth about US $7 trillion by 2025, and estimates show that about 84 percent of consumers had chicken in the last two weeks. Despite some reports that alternative meat demands are rising, meat industry statistics show growing demand for animal products, especially in wealthy nations. For every hen consumed, an equal number of male chicks has been slaughtered. The most common ways for slaughtering newborn chicks include gassing and high-speed grinders. In Germany alone, 45 million male chicks are slaughtered annually. One German company already has an alternative on the market– an egg they claim can be tested for sex before it hatches. The company can determine the sex of the egg just seven days after fertilization by extracting fluid from the egg and testing it for hormones. The company is selling their eggs in 200 German markets and hopes to take off as a solution to this animal welfare concern. Via The BBC Image via onefox

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German court rules mass killing of male chicks legal

Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

May 29, 2019 by  
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On Monday, Malaysian authorities reported that the last male Sumatran rhino died in a nature reserve on Borneo island. Currently, there is only one female from the same species remaining in Malaysia. The male, Tam, is thought to have died from old age after he was discovered on a palm oil plantation. Efforts to breed Tam with females of the same species were unsuccessful. Related: Koalas declared functionally extinct Sumatran rhinos are one of five rhino species , and only one of three found in Asia. At their peak, Sumatran rhinos could be found in Bhutan, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos. They are the smallest rhino species in the world. Experts estimate that between 30 and 100 remain, with a few also living in captivity in Indonesia, and the U.S. Like most species on the brink of extinction , rhinos have suffered from deforestation and loss of habitat. Logging, roads, urban development, farms and palm oil plantations have carved up their habitat. According to experts, the fragmentation of natural spaces is the primary threat to their population. Small reserves and wild spaces are simply not enough. Disconnected populations also make it difficult for the solitary creatures to find mates and reproduce. “With logging, with roads for development, the patches of forest available are shrinking. Frankly it’s hard for them to find each other to mate and breed successfully,” said Cathy Dean of Save the Rhinos International. In addition, rhinos are frequently poached for their horns and other medicinal purposes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered , however Save the Rhino International believes there may still be hope for the species. According to their research, only about 20 rhinos could still provide enough genetic diversity to save them from extinction if they are able to successfully mate. Via BBC Image via Charles W. Harden

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Last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies

Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef

February 26, 2019 by  
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The world’s largest coral reef is facing a major sludge crisis. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority just approved the dumping of one million tons of sludge on the delicate reef system thanks to a loophole in the country’s law. Marine officials say that port industries have the right to dump waste that is dredged from the ocean floor wherever they want, including over the Great Barrier Reef . Environmentalists are concerned that the sludge will “smother” the reef and are looking to dump the waste elsewhere. Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef “The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently,” Larissa Waters, co-head of the Greens Party, explained. “One million tons of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip.” According to  BBC , Waters warned that if the sludge is dumped directly over the reef, it could have devastating effects on the ecosystem, which is already coping with global warming and recent flooding in the area. The majority of the sludge is being removed from ocean floors in Hay Point Port — a region that leads the world in coal exports. Although environmentalists are concerned about dumping one million tons of sludge on the Great Barrier Reef, officials with the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation do not believe it is an issue. The company just released a statement online about how the sludge dump will have a low impact on the coral reef and will only affect it in the short-term. The closer the sludge is dumped on the coral reef, the worse it will affect it in the long-term. Experts believe that if the sludge is placed farther out, then it will have less of an impact on the coral reef. That said, the waste still contains trace metals, which can harm the delicate ecosystem. The sludge controversy comes a year after Australia promised to dedicate $500 million AUD to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. Over the past few years, the coral reef has been reduced by 30 percent, mostly due to an invasive species of starfish called the crown-of-thorns and significant coral bleaching. Via BBC Image via Kyle Taylor

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Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef

8 sustainable innovations in construction materials

February 26, 2019 by  
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The construction industry is responsible for a large percentage of carbon emissions . From sourcing to design to material manufacturing to building construction, the carbon dioxide output from projects around the world has a significant environmental impact. This has led to sustainable construction innovations that not only reduce the production of carbon dioxide, but also improve a building’s longevity, reduce  energy  bills and increase the use of natural light. Here is a list of some innovative construction materials and ideas that could revolutionize the industry and help us build a more sustainable future. Transparent wood Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic. When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Bamboo-reinforced concrete As a natural replacement of steel for reinforcing concrete, bamboo is gentler on the planet without compromising on durability. Bamboo-reinforced concrete also allows for better earthquake resistance. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it can easily be regenerated while simultaneously absorbing CO2. Cigarette butt bricks Smoking cigarettes is still a big part of cultures around the world, despite the negative effects on personal health . The butts also make up a significant percentage of waste. But researchers at RMIT University in Australia have discovered that adding cigarette butts to bricks reduces the amount of time and energy needed to bake them compared to traditional methods, plus the cigarette butt bricks are better insulators. Using cigarette butts in the brick-making process reduces waste and lessens the number of heavy metals that make their way into water and soil. Hydrogel The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona is leading the way in reducing the use of air conditioning by using hydrogel to create walls that can cool themselves. The architects are placing hydrogel bubbles in between ceramic panels that can be installed into existing walls. Inspired by the human body’s ability to cool itself, the hydrogel can absorb water when the air around it gets hot and starts to evaporate. This can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, so you don’t have to keep the A/C cranking non-stop during the summer. Super-hydrophobic cement Recently, scientists have found a way to alter cement’s microstructure in a way that makes it absorb and reflect light. This finding has led to the creation of super-hydrophobic cement, or luminescent cement, which could replace traditional street lights and the energy they consume. Related: Green foods could clean up the construction industry Plus, this form of cement is more durable than conventional cement and could last up to 100 years compared to just 30 to 50 years. Synthetic spider silk With spider silk being one of the toughest natural materials on Earth, scientists all over the world have been trying to duplicate it. 3D printing has changed the game in the world of synthetic spider silk, and it could create a product made from water , silica and cellulose that is “stronger than steel and tougher than Kevlar” according to Smithsonian Magazine . This could change multiple industries like textiles, construction, automobiles and medical devices. Breathe Bricks A few years ago, architect Carmen Trudell started researching the air quality problems in Cairo, and that resulted in the creation of the Breathe Brick. Inspired by the treatment her brother received for kidney failure, Trudell started wondering if she could produce a building component that filters toxins. Trudell and her team “came up with the idea of putting a cyclone inside of the exterior wall” by developing the Breathe Brick . When using Breathe Bricks to build a wall, the faceted surface of the bricks pulls outside air into ports, then the cyclone filter spins the air and gets rid of particulate matter that causes pollution. LED and OLED lighting Lighting a commercial or residential building takes a lot of energy. So, over the past decade, LED (light emitting diode) and OLED (organic light emitting diode) have entered the marketplace to drastically reduce the amount of energy used to light up structures. Not only do LEDs use just 10 percent of the energy used by incandescent lighting and 50 percent of fluorescent lights, but they also last 40 times longer. The advantages of OLEDs are the slim size and the transparent material, allowing for natural lighting during the day before they light up at night. As technology continues to advance and materials change, the cost of LED and OLED should fall, making them both affordable and energy-efficient. Via Protection Supplies Images via Shutterstock,  Abigail Gina and Michael Laut

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Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic

December 14, 2018 by  
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A new Arctic Report Card from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed that the wild reindeer and caribou populations have plummeted by more than half over the last two decades. According to the report, the impact of climate change in the Arctic has resulted in the reindeer population falling from 5 million to 2.1 million. The report found that the weather patterns and vegetation changes in the Arctic tundra have had a major negative impact on the reindeer, and the wild herds in northern Canada and Alaska have been hit the worst, with some of the herds shrinking by more than 90 percent. Related: Norway rejects wind farm in favor of wild reindeer “We see increased drought in some areas due to climate warming , and the warming itself leads to a change of vegetation,” said professor Howard Epstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Virginia. Epstein was one of the scientists involved with the research for the new report, and he explained that the reindeer eat lichen, which grows at ground level. But the warming temperature has led to taller vegetation, and it is “out-competing” the lichen. The warmer climate has also meant more bugs in the region, and that results in the reindeer having to spend their day getting the insects off of them or hiding from the insects. Increased rain has caused a problem, because it falls on snowy ground and creates hard layers of ice covering the tundra. This makes it difficult for the animals, because they can’t push their noses through the ice to get to their food. As for what can be done about the problem, the BBC reported that reducing carbon emissions and limiting temperature increases needs to be done on a global scale. Not only will this help the reindeer, but it will also decrease extreme weather events around the world. + NOAA Via BBC Image via U.S. Department of State

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Climate change is killing reindeer in the Arctic

Magical rainbow swamp goes viral

November 30, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, Brent Rossen posted a photo on Reddit that his girlfriend took of a rainbow swamp, and within 24 hours the photo received more than 120,000 upvotes. The couple was enjoying a walk at First Landing State Park in Virginia when they came upon the unusual phenomenon. “Me and my girlfriend were walking in the woods the other week and saw a rainbow pool for the first time,” Rossen wrote in his post. Related: Magical artworks place lamps, books and chairs in the middle of nature So how does this happen? Jeff Ripple, a former Florida swamp walk leader, told the BBC that the rainbow effect occurs because of the natural oils released by decaying vegetation. The decomposing leaves in the water release tannic acid and a thin film forms on top of pooled water in swamps and marshes. When the sunlight hits it at a certain angle, you can see the gorgeous colors. However, if you look at the water in a shadow, it appears to be normal swamp water. But, on a sunny day, you can see the rainbow when you look at it from an angle. The water also needs to be still for a long period of time for the rainbows to appear. Ripple says that any movement from sheet flow, wind disturbances, or current will “destroy the fragile rainbow film.” This phenomenon reportedly happens at various swamps and marshes along the Eastern seaboard. Retired engineer Michael Hussey posted a pic on Facebook of a rainbow pool in Tallahassee, Florida. Swamp walk leader Sandra Friend has also blogged about her experience with rainbow swamps, and Annie from Not Just Abroad has also posted about a rainbow swamp in Caw Caw County Park in Charleston, South Carolina. Hussey says that he sees this happen every three to four years, and it is “beautiful to see.” Thomas Thornton, facility manager at Caw Caw swamp, says that it must be the result of some kind of perfect storm, and it seems like you have to be lucky to see it in person. Via BBC Images via Shutterstock

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SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

October 25, 2018 by  
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SodaStream has announced the launch of its massive ocean-sweeper, a contraption designed to dismantle booming plastic waste patches in marine waters.  The “Holy Turtle” has already started cleaning up plastic in the Caribbean Sea; the specially designed model is stationed off the shores of Roatán, Honduras for its pilot project. Enlisting the aid of local youth and government, as well as environmental NGOs, experts and artists, SodaStream’s multifaceted mission is a four-day feat with a hopefully long-term impact. SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum heads the ambitious assignment alongside a formation of international executives who have refocused their energies into acquiring the technology and partnerships they need for the bold initiative. Seven local schools in Honduras have also teamed up with the nearly 150 company execs. While the students are charged with providing a helping hand with the clean-up, their longstanding potential is even more significant. The kids will participate in educational courses alongside their clean-up duties, learning about the environment from international experts. Birnbaum and collaborating NGO Plastic Soup Foundation hope that the students’ involvement will influence them to become environmental ambassadors for their communities in the future. Related: Only 13% of Earth’s oceans remain untouched by humans — for now Having spent his life side-by-side with water , Birnbaum is no stranger to how influential interacting with nature can be. Before leading SodaStream, the philanthropist was a naval officer and an experienced skipper. Birnbaum’s project was inspired by a 2017 BBC feature that brought to light the devastating stretch of synthetic trash floating off the Honduran coastline through the lens of videographer Caroline Powers. More than a clean-up job, Birnbaum became determined to dismantle the marine decay, regarding the plastic waste as both a somber byproduct of human consumption as well as an invasive force in its own right. “More than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. This plastic doesn’t disappear. It breaks up into tiny particles, floats in the ocean, endangers marine life and ends up in our food chain,” he explained. “We must all put our hands together to reduce the use of single-use plastic and commit ourselves to changing our habits and go reusable. It’s in our hands.” Related: Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the ocean, is plagued with plastic The company is the first known commercial entity to attempt a marine clean-up project, at least with this rank of potential and — true to its cause — the recovered debris won’t simply be trashed. The waste, gathered by the 1,000-foot-long “Holy Turtle” contraption, will be transformed into an exhibition aimed at raising awareness about single-use plastics and educating people on why adopting reusable cups, straws, bags and bottles is paramount in saving the environment. The one-of-a-kind vessel was developed by Florida-based company ABBCO, specialists in oil spill containment. Two marine vessels tow the extensive gathering unit that is able to cover vast portions of open water. Most remarkably, the “Holy Turtle” features specially engineered vent holes to protect wildlife while still gathering up significant amounts waste. “We can’t clean up all the plastic waste on the planet, but we each need to do whatever we can,” Birnbaum said. “The most important thing is to commit ourselves to stop using single-use plastic.” + Roatan 2018 Via Nasdaq Image via SodaStream

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SodaStream deploys an ocean-sweeper to clean up plastic waste in the Caribbean Sea

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