Digging deeper for climate solutions: deep-root GMOs could feed world and store carbon

August 15, 2019 by  
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Scientists are experimenting with new genetic modification technology that “supercharges” plants to enhance what they already excel at– sequestering carbon. As the world scrambles to find innovative mitigation solutions, plants have been doing what they quietly perfected over millions and millions of years ago– taking carbon from the atmosphere and converting it into carbohydrates, energy and oxygen. A recent study shows one research institute’s promising progress on the quest to create a patented plant that grows deeper, cork-like roots that store 20 times more carbon than the average plant . The researchers believe these findings can eventually be applied to cash crops at a scale that can truly impact climate change. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best bet against climate change The California-based Salk Institute is leading the way in what they call the Harnessing Plants Initiative. Their goal is to create an enhanced plant that not only stores more carbon but also yields an agricultural product that profits farmers and feeds people. Historically, genetic plant modification has been used to target and enhance specific traits within a plant, such as the size or taste of the fruit or its resistance to pests and disease. Now, Salk’s plant biologists are targeting specific hormones and genes that indicate and increase root biomass. Deep dive: why deep roots matter For centuries, farmers have recognized that deeper roots stabilize the soil and make trees and crops more resilient to heavy winds, floods, hurricanes and erosion. Deep roots also encourage drought resistance because they allow the plant to search for hard to reach water reserves that haven’t been dried out by the sun. But recently, deep roots have become coveted for their ability to sequester , store and stabilize carbon dioxide . The carbon in roots is stored as a complex carbohydrate that is not easily broken down by soil microbes and therefore it is more stable storage than above ground plants, especially for plants that are frequently harvested. The idea behind deep roots is actually very logical– deeper roots store the carbon further from the place we are trying to keep it away from– the atmosphere. Although plants have always sequestered carbon, they can no longer keep up with the rate that humans are pumping it into the atmosphere– at least not naturally. Globally, people emit 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year and plants can only capture about half. The idea, according the Salk’s plant biologist, Wolfgang Busch, is to “store carbon in parts of the soil where the carbon is more stable. Change the biochemistry, increase the stability. We’re not trying to get plants to do something they don’t normally do,” says Busch . “We’re just trying to increase the efficiency. Then we can use that to mitigate climate change .” Joanne Chory, also a plant biologist at the Salk Institute echoed Busch’s explanation in an interview with Foreign Policy News. “All we have to do is make them about 2 percent more efficient at redistributing carbon than they are right now, and we can effect a global change,” said Chory . The Salk Ideal Plant Wolfgang Busch, Chory and their team of plant biologists at the Salk Institute recently published their preliminary findings in Cell. Their research focused on a test plant – the thale cress – where they experimented with root hormones and a specific gene found to control the shape of roots. The science behind it: hormones and genes The hormone auxin is the most important hormone that dictates root growth. The biologists at Salk, however, also identified a gene – EXOCYST70A3 – that controls the shape and extent of roots by monitoring how much of the auxin hormone is released. By identifying and isolating these findings, the researchers can now control the size and direction of the roots in their test plants. The EXOCYST70A3 gene is present in all plants, so their research is profoundly scalable if applied to the world’s top grown crops. Indeed, Salk intends to apply their findings to corn , soy, rice, wheat, cotton and rapeseed (canola). Salk’s secret sauce: suberin But the researchers didn’t stop at isolating the hormone and gene, they also identified a specific substance to modify and replicate based on its benefits. According to their website, their ‘secret sauce’ is a substance called suberin . Suberin is a cork material that is carbon-rich, found naturally in plants and resistant to decomposition. It enhances soil, but is also one of the best (meaning most stable) storage vessels for carbon dioxide. Salk’s patented plant, The Ideal Plant, will maximize suberin within its roots. Ultimately, their plants will increase root biomass that is both deeper and higher in suberin. But aren’t GMOs bad for the environment? There is a lot of controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms , including their potentially harmful impacts on human health , ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods. However, GMO proponents believe they are the answer to feeding the world’s growing population and increasing resilience against a rapidly changing environment. For the Salk Institute, GMO nay-sayers, like the European Union and India, aren’t their biggest concern. Their research continues (and receives millions of dollars of investment) for expected implementation in places where GMOs are not banned. In order to reach their goal of using the Salk Ideal Plant to store half of the carbon that humans emit every year, the researchers claim they would need their patented product in six percent of the world’s agriculturally productive land. While there are natural ways of cross breeding to reach similar results, it would take considerably longer and there simply isn’t enough time. The climate clock is ticking The Salk Institute’s recently published study holds promising breakthroughs, but they are still not ready with a usable product and time is running out. Environmental experts agree that drastic action needs to be taken to mitigate greenhouse gases , so the best time to start planting the yet-to-be-designed Ideal Plant was years ago. Via Vice Images via Salk Institute

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Digging deeper for climate solutions: deep-root GMOs could feed world and store carbon

Dramatic domino-effect facade wraps BIG-designed business school

April 29, 2019 by  
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Bjarke Ingels Group has unveiled images of the stunning Business Innovation Hub at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Designed in collaboration with Goody Clancy Architects , the recently completed 70,000-square-foot extension and partial renovation of the Isenberg School of Management not only delivers a dramatic appearance with a falling dominoes-like facade, but also high sustainability standards. Clad in low-maintenance copper, the Isenberg School of Management Business Innovation Hub expects to achieve LEED Silver certification. Prominently located on Haigis Mall near the entrance of campus, the Isenberg School of Management Business Innovation Hub extends the existing Isenberg building footprint to the north and then loops around east, creating a donut shape that connects back to the existing building to nearly double the school’s current space. At the center of the “donut” is a garden courtyard . The architects further articulated the curved facade by pulling out the northwest corner to emphasize the 5,000-square-foot Student Learning Commons at the entrance and by introducing a unique faceted geometry that mimics the appearance of dominoes falling in a line. “The new Business Innovation Hub at the Isenberg School of Management is conceived as an extension of both the building and the campus mall,” Bjarke Ingels explained. “The linear structure is bent to form a full loop framing an internal courtyard for the life of the students. The facade is pulled away in a domino effect to create a generous invitation from the Haigis Mall to the Learning Commons. The mall and the courtyard — inside and outside form a forum for the students, the faculty and the profession to meet, mingle and mix society and academia.” The new extension offers facilities for more than 150 staff and 5,000 students in undergraduate, master’s and PhD programs. In contrast to the dark copper facade, which will develop a natural patina over time, the interior is bright and spacious with natural light streaming in from the outdoors and the inner courtyard. The flexible interior spaces are designed to facilitate collaboration with student interactions and chance encounters in mind. + BIG + Goody Clancy Architects Photography by Max Touhey and Laurian Ghinitoiu via BIG

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Dramatic domino-effect facade wraps BIG-designed business school

Ontario cancels plans to reduce its carbon footprint

April 26, 2019 by  
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Ontario just cut plans to reduce its carbon footprint as Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, Canada decided to cancel an initiative that would have planted 50 million trees across the province and would have absorbed a considerable amount of carbon dioxide . This is not the first eco-friendly plan Ford has sidelined as he previously got rid of a carbon cap that was expected to bring in billions of dollars to the government. Ford also ditched a plan to test cars for harmful emissions and is having a bit of trouble with Toronto’s subways, but his latest move could have much wider implications. Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting Planting trees is one of the best ways to naturally absorb carbon and cut down on air pollution. Trees act as a filter and soak up carbon in the atmosphere , storing it for later use. The millions of trees that were supposed to be planted in Ontario would have made a big impact in cutting carbon in the province and surrounding region. That opportunity, however, was squashed by Ford’s latest decision. Instead of planting trees , Ford is banking the money that would have been used for the project and using it to fund another initiative related to beer. Rob Keen, the leader of a group called Forests Ontario, says that the cancellation could affect the forests in the region, which need at least 40 percent coverage to survive. Keen added that not planting the trees will increase erosion in areas of Ontario that are prone to flooding. Bodies of water in the region, including lakes and rivers, will also get warmer with the lack of shade from trees. Lastly, water and air quality will also go down as a result of the canceled program. Ford has not commented on the backlash his administration has received, but we can only hope that lawmakers realize the mistake and do their best to reduce their carbon footprint in the near future. Via Tree Hugger Image via  Daniel Joseph Petty

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Ontario cancels plans to reduce its carbon footprint

15 fresh ideas for leftover fruit that will reduce your food waste

March 26, 2019 by  
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With 40 percent of America’s food going to the trash each year, food waste has become a major factor in climate change , because most of it ends up in landfills and then releases methane , a major greenhouse gas . If you are looking for some creative ways to use the random leftover fruit sitting in your kitchen, try some of these recipes. We all have the best intentions when we make trips to the grocery store, and the plan is never for the food to end up in the trash. But many of us still find ourselves trying to figure out what to do with food that is on the verge of spoiling, because life got in the way and you didn’t have a chance to eat it. This is especially true when it comes to fruit. You can make everything from healthy drinks to delicious pies with your leftover fruit, so there is no reason for it to end up in the trash ever again. Fruit-infused water One of the best and easiest ways to use leftover fruit is to infuse water with it. You can use any kind of fruit you have sitting in the kitchen to create all kinds of flavor combinations. Pure fruit ice pops You can use your spoiling or overripe fruit to make ice pops or fruit cubes with this recipe from Food Meanderings . The great thing about this idea is that you can use any type of fruit, then add some frozen berries and puree it all together before freezing. Related: 8 of the best fruits and vegetables you can eat in their entirety Candied orange peels Make your very own orange candy with this recipe for candied orange peels from Complete Recipes . All you need is sugar, water and a few oranges, and they take just an hour to make. Raspberry and pear smoothie Don’t throw those ripe pears away! Instead, use them to make a smoothie with this recipe from Neil’s Healthy Meals . Mix some yogurt, frozen raspberries, cranberry juice and chopped pears together in a blender for this quick and healthy breakfast or snack. Mango orange banana sunrise smoothie Do you have a mango, clementine and banana taking up space in your kitchen? Then try this smoothie recipe from Gimme Delicious . Just add some yogurt and honey to your fruit , and blend it for a couple of minutes to get a delicious breakfast. Creamy strawberry salad dressing All you need are five ingredients to make this delicious, creamy strawberry salad dressing from Montana Happy . Salad and strawberries are a match made in heaven, and a blender, some strawberries, raspberry vinegar, brown sugar, olive oil and lemon juice will help you make it happen. Berry fruit salad If you have a bunch of leftover berries, then try this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and make a delicious fruit salad. This berry fruit salad is quick and easy to make, and the honey, mint and lemon juice give it a nice, refreshing taste. Related: The Seasonal Food Guide helps you store, cook and enjoy seasonal produce Apple pie for one Turn a lonely apple into a scrumptious dessert with this recipe from One Dish Kitchen . You don’t need to bake an entire pie to use up your leftover fruit, just try an apple pie for one. Boozy peach-blackberry pie Are you trying to figure out what do with your leftover peaches and blackberries? Obviously, pie is the answer with this recipe from My Modern Cookery . Pressure cooker blueberry jam Try making some homemade jam with leftover blueberries by using this recipe from Simply Happy Foodie . Not only does it taste better than store-bought jam, but it’s also cheaper. Plum jam Need to use up some plums before they go bad? Try making some plum jam with this recipe from A Baker’s House . You won’t usually find plum jam in stores, so making your own at home will be a sweet treat that you can add to vanilla ice cream or as a compliment to pork. Of course, it is also fantastic on a piece of bread. Mixed-berry dessert sauce Give your pound cake, cheesecake or ice cream a little kick with this mixed-berry dessert sauce recipe from The Spruce Eats . This is a great way to use up leftover raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Banana bread One of the best ways to use up ripe bananas is to make banana bread. This recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch takes just a handful of ingredients and about an hour to bake. Related: 12 delicious and crowd-pleasing vegan brunch ideas Apple cinnamon bread All you need is one apple for this recipe from The Happier Homemaker . Just peel and finely chop the apple before adding some cinnamon, sugar and a few other pantry staples. In about an hour, you will have delicious apple cinnamon bread. Leftover fruit bread This is a great recipe for ripe bananas and peaches, plus a few blueberries. It comes from The Food Network , and you can opt to bake an entire loaf or make muffins. Either way, it will be delicious. Next time you are thinking about throwing out some leftover fruit, try one of these simple recipes instead and know that you are helping the environment by reducing your food waste . Images via Shanna Trim , Silviarita ( 1 , 2 ), Jodi Michelle , Ponce Photography , Imoflow , Nile , Sabine van Erp , Marke1996 , Alan Levine , Marco Verch and Shutterstock

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15 fresh ideas for leftover fruit that will reduce your food waste

Is carbon capture storage about to have its day?

March 1, 2019 by  
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It may not be the best long-term solution, but these technologies are worth a look.

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Is carbon capture storage about to have its day?

Can Mahindra Group companies rise against climate change?

March 1, 2019 by  
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The multi-sector Indian conglomerate is pushing internal carbon pricing, science-based targets and more — but can it scale?

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

December 13, 2018 by  
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Our pets are our best friends … our family. That’s why it is important to spoil your animals with eco-friendly gifts that will make them and the planet happy. From chew toys made from sustainable hemp and wool to collars made of recycled plastic, here our some of our favorite holiday gifts for pets. Chew toys Whether your dog likes to snuggle with its chew toys or is a tough chewer who rips everything to shreds, these toys will make Fido the happiest pup on the planet. Each option is handmade in the U.S. from sustainable hemp canvas and eco-felt wool. They are durable enough to withstand extra-tough dogs, and they can also hold up to a washing machine. Pet beds Whether you have cats, dogs or both, all your furry friends will love the Snuggle Bed , a cozy sleeping space that can transform into many bed types to suit your pet’s preferences. This particular bed is OEKO-TEX certified; the company’s pet beds are also made from 100 percent recycled materials . Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for family Cat trees Cats love climbing, scratching and — above all else — resting in baskets. Let your cat do all three with this cat tree , which features a carpeted base, a dangling ball for play, a scratch post and a basket-like sphere made from  banana leaf material . Best of all, this tree will fit right in with your home’s beautiful furniture. Aquariums If you keep fish as pets, make their home the best is can be with an eco-friendly aquarium. This specific tank uses fish waste to fertilize herbs growing atop the tank; the plants in turn clean the water for the fish . Related: How to make your own eco-friendly aquarium accessories Collars and leashes Adorn your lovable pets in nature-inspired collars and leashes made from recycled plastic bottles. For added style, this version mimics the “distinctive look and feel of a classic polo shirt,” making your pet cooler and classier than you. Images via  Rhaúl V. Alva , Honest Pet Products , Pet Play , Wayfair , Back to the Roots  and Lupine Pet

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A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets

Recycling Programs Debate: Mandatory vs. Voluntary

October 12, 2018 by  
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We all want a sustainable economy, but the best way … The post Recycling Programs Debate: Mandatory vs. Voluntary appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Recycling Programs Debate: Mandatory vs. Voluntary

We need to talk about blockchain — together

June 5, 2018 by  
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Blockchain is the new collective action — yet blockers remain. When is a collaborative blockchain effort the best solution?

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We need to talk about blockchain — together

Amazon Takes Plants in the Office to the Next Level

January 29, 2018 by  
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It’s not surprising why our article on the best office … The post Amazon Takes Plants in the Office to the Next Level appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Amazon Takes Plants in the Office to the Next Level

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