Babylegs the inexpensive, educational way to monitor ocean plastic pollution

August 14, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a frequent topic around the planet, especially when referencing marine life and water pollution. Microplastics can’t be seen by the naked eye but are showing up in water tests nearly everywhere. Do you have plastic in your nearby waterway? If you want to find out, you can collect a sample for testing using Babylegs, a trawl for monitoring ocean plastic. Currently fully funded on Kickstarter, Babylegs was introduced by Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a self-proclaimed feminist and anti-colonial marine science laboratory. CLEAR is working on the project in conjunction with another organization called Public Lab, a community that develops open source tools in the hopes of motivating community involvement. Together, the groups aim to provide tools the public can use to help gather information about environmental quality issues. Related: New line of men’s swimwear is made from recycled ocean plastic Babylegs offers a simple design and is sourced from inexpensive and recycled materials. It’s a do-it-yourself kit that you put together before use. This isn’t the product of a company looking to make a profit. Babylegs is a tool that the company wants to provide to as many people as can use it, inexpensively and efficiently. With the easy-to-source materials, anyone can put together Babylegs, including classrooms of students. The basic supply list is baby leggings, a water bottle, sandpaper, a drill, scissors, rope, a plumber’s clamp and a screwdriver. With these few supplies, plus some in the kit and some provided by you (like the water bottle), you can make your Babylegs and head out to the closest body of water In addition to providing the Babylegs kits, the company has a goal to facilitate education regarding plastics in the water. The concept is that an increased number of people taking and evaluating samples will provide a larger database of water plastic information that everyone can rely on. Of course, making the Babylegs and collecting the water sample with a simple trawl behind a boat or from a boat, bridge or dock is the easy part. The science comes in through the evaluation of the data you collect, so the kit helps with that, too. According to the Kickstarter campaign, “The activity guides included with this kit are divided into sections on building the BabyLegs trawl, deploying BabyLegs in the water, processing the sample in a kitchen, school or laboratory, where plastics are sorted from organics and finally forensically analyzing the microplastics so you can learn about pollution in your waters.” The idea is solely focused on information and education, so there’s nothing fancy about the product. Instead, most of the components are from recycled materials and many are reusable at the end of the Babylegs lifecycle. Kits are shipped in fully recyclable packaging that is also reused when possible. + Babylegs Images via Public Lab and Max Liboiron / CLEAR Lab

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Babylegs the inexpensive, educational way to monitor ocean plastic pollution

Matt Carstens on Land O’ Lake’s circularity data platform and biogas initiative

August 4, 2019 by  
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The cooperative helps farmers understand how to improve their business and minimize environmental impact.

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Matt Carstens on Land O’ Lake’s circularity data platform and biogas initiative

Your favorite playlist has a carbon footprint

May 24, 2019 by  
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You would think streaming music is more eco-friendly than CDs, tapes and records, right? Afterall, there’s no waste. A new study by the Universities of Glasglow and Oslo calculated the carbon footprint associated with downloading and streaming music and the answer is surprising. According to data from 2015 and 2016, music streaming accounted for 200 to 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions . The study used data records from the Recording Industry Association of America. First, researchers took the total number of streamed and downloaded songs and multiplied it by the amount of electricity it takes to download 1 gigabyte of data. Each gigabyte is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to light one light bulb for an hour. Next researchers investigated what kind of fuel sources are typically fueling music streaming sites— such as coal or renewable energy — and averaged the carbon dioxide emitted. Related: Music festivals and events can set the stage for sustainability The totals do not reflect the carbon footprint of data storage and processing centers, nor the electricity it takes to power your cellphone or steaming device, so the comprehensive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is actually much higher than the study initially indicates. Music streaming giant, Spotify, did not respond to The Rolling Stone journalist’s request for comment, but they did publish a sustainability report in 2017, which promised to work toward carbon neutrality. By 2018, the new sustainability report indicated that they had closed almost all of their data centers and reduced their carbon footprint by 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide . In actuality, Spotify shifted to using Google Cloud services, which means that now Google data centers are responsible for the emissions, not that emissions have necessarily been cut. Streaming competitors Apple and Amazon have recently invested in renewable energy options for their centers. Data centers in general are responsible for 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the airline industry. Music lovers who want to be more sustainable should buy full albums rather than streaming individual songs, especially if you plan to hit that repeat button a lot. According to their calculations, streaming 27 songs uses more energy than manufacturing the disc. For those of you who can’t imagine hopping in a time machine and buying a CD again, the authors suggest that downloading songs for offline listening could reduce the associated energy consumption. Via Rolling Stone Image via PhotoMIX-Company

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Your favorite playlist has a carbon footprint

AT&T dives deep into climate data

April 4, 2019 by  
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The broadband company is teaming up with modeling experts — and making an unusually proactive move for the industry.

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AT&T dives deep into climate data

Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

March 26, 2019 by  
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A recent study analyzed billions of Wikipedia searches and found that the public’s interest in plants and animal species is often linked to the seasonality and migration patterns of wildlife. The findings contribute to a body of research that uses internet search data to understand and gauge the public’s interest in environmental topics. Researchers believe this information can ultimately help guide more effective wildlife conservation campaigns. The study: Wikipedia searches and species The study, led by John Mittermeier, an ornithology student at the University of Oxford, was published on March 5 in the  PLOS Biology journal. It analyzed 2.3 billion Wikipedia page views of 32,000 different species. The authors examined pages across 245 different languages over a span of three years. The study’s most pertinent finding shows that over a fourth of all page views were linked to the seasonality of the searched-for species . The authors concluded that this means that people are paying attention to the plants and animals around them, despite the widening disconnect between people and nature. According to Mittermeier, each page could count as a human-wildlife interaction, “if you count a click as an interaction”. Although “clicks” are debatable as an interaction, it is true that people are increasingly disconnected with nature in many parts of the urbanized world. The study’s authors are hopeful that this knowledge of seasonal interest can turn into support for wildlife conservation . Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees, ?and bats Searches and Seasonality The study found that searches for particular species peaked during certain seasons or times of migration . For example, searches for Baltimore Orioles were higher in the Spring when the birds migrate to breeding grounds. Searches for flowering plants were also higher during times when flowers were in bloom, whereas searches for evergreen plants like pine trees had no correlation to season. “The results of this study…encouragingly suggest that humans remain attuned to the seasonal dynamics of the natural world,” Mittermeier explained. The authors also noted cultural trends in the searches. For example, searches for Great White Sharks rose during the Discovery Chanel’s Shark Week. Mittermeier and the co-authors believe the study will help explain important questions, such as “how is the world changing, for which species is it changing the most and where are the people who care the most and can do the most to help?” Similar internet-search studies There are a number of other studies that have examined the ties between internet searches and environmental topics. In fact, this body of research is part of an emerging field called “conservation culturomics,” which uses digital trend data to understand public support for and interest in the environment. One similar study examined Google searches on environmental topics since 2004, particularly testing linkages between ‘conservation’ and ‘ climate change ‘ and the competition between those two searches within the public’s “limited bandwidth” for environmental topics. Although the authors originally believed climate change would overpower conservation and biodiversity searches,  findings reveal that both topics are closely linked and that searches for the two were about equal. Remarkably, the data also revealed a drastic increase in interest in conservation and climate change among populations in India, Nepal, and Eastern and Southern African countries. Another study suggests that spikes in wildlife conservation searches occur around the publication of news articles on similar topics, however, such peaks are not associated with the publication of research studies. This discovery shows the critical importance of the media for conservation and climate change awareness and suggests that conservation organizations should look to strengthen partnerships with journalists and media channels as complementary to their investments in scientific research. Still, different  study on internet searches for endangered wildlife species revealed that the general public is far too focused on endangered mammals, while equally important and threatened fish and reptiles receive little attention and therefore very few searches. Again, this study concluded that more media attention must be given to lesser-known and often less-charismatic species in order to peak public support for their protection. All of the studies’ authors are quick to point out that though the use of internet searches is a great and inexpensive way to read the pulse of the general public and understand their curiosities; interest does not equate to support, and conservation organizations must use the new information to turn curiosities into financial and political action. Via Monga Bay Image via Dave_E

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Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends

Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

March 13, 2019 by  
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A Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train is playing an important part in wildlife conservation . Train, who was too energetic to make it as a drug dog, is lending his nose to sniff out endangered species by smelling their poop. Train is helping conservationists like Karen DeMatteo track down some of the world’s most elusive animals, such as oncillas and jaguars, by finding their scat in the wild. DeMatteo and her colleagues are focusing their research in Argentina, and Train is helping them discover where these endangered species are calling home. “Everybody leaves poop behind in the forest,” DeMatteo shared. “You can figure out which habitats they like and which habitats they avoid.” Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife DeMatteo is using the data she gathers to help conservationists determine where they need to focus their efforts. As human populations continue to encroach on wilderness areas, researchers hope to figure out which areas of the country need better conservation practices — and Train is helping them reach their goals. Before he was sniffing out wildlife , Train was placed in a drug-detection program. Train’s life as a drug-sniffing dog did not pan out, because he was far too energetic for the program. Luckily, DeMatteo snagged him up and trained him to sniff out poop instead of drugs, and the rest is history. Train’s energy also makes him ideal for tracking down wildlife in Argentina. In fact, DeMatteo and her team hiked over 600 miles in 2018 looking for scat, and Train’s energy helped him handle the workload with ease. Before Train came along, researchers like DeMatteo relied on game cameras to find and track endangered species. The only problem with this system is that scientists have to wait until the animals cross the camera’s view. They also have to deal with theft. Although Train is 12 years old, he has not slowed down. After Argentina , DeMatteo and her team will be traveling to Nebraska to find mountain lions, continuing Train’s assistance in wildlife conservation. + Got Scat? Via CNN Images via Karen DeMatteo

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Wildlife conservation aided by a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Train

How tech became the ‘wind at the back’ of the sustainability movement

February 28, 2019 by  
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Technology is a tool that companies can increasingly use to meet sustainability and climate emissions reductions goals.

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How tech became the ‘wind at the back’ of the sustainability movement

Utilities are starting to invest in big batteries instead of building new power plants

February 28, 2019 by  
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Energy storage is beating new building in cost and performance.

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Utilities are starting to invest in big batteries instead of building new power plants

Amazon plans to reach net-zero carbon use by 2030

February 22, 2019 by  
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Amazon is continuing its dedication to sustainability by aiming for  net-zero carbon use by the year 2030. The e-commerce behemoth plans to accomplish this ambitious task by adding more renewable energy programs that will be incorporated in its shipping and packaging departments. Amazon already has several carbon cutting initiatives in place. This includes programs like Ship In Own Container, Frustration-Free Packaging and the Closed Loop Fund. The company has also invested in both solar and wind farms as well as solar paneled rooftops. More than 200 engineers, scientists and designers supervise these programs and are committed to long-term sustainability. Related: Amazon’s incredible plant-filled biospheres open in Seattle According to Amazon , the company plans to take its eco-friendly programs a step further by reducing carbon use to zero over the next decade. To that end, Amazon has invested in biofuels, electric vehicles , renewable energy sources and reusable packaging, all of which will make it possible for the company to reach net-zero carbon in 50 percent of its online orders. Reaching net-zero carbon use is easier said than done. Fortunately, Amazon has a host of suppliers who are also dedicated to bettering the environment through renewable energy . Amazon also plans to use customer feedback to help encourage companies to cut down on carbon use through reusable packaging. This is similar to what the online seller has accomplished through its Frustration-Free Packaging and Ship In Own Container programs, which have greatly reduced its carbon footprint in recent years. When it comes to accountability, Amazon is currently tracking its carbon use and plans to share its findings at some point this year. This will help the company gauge its progress over the next few months. Scientists will also use the data to come up with better ways to incorporate sustainable energy practices into its shipping and packaging departments, which will hopefully result in a net-zero carbon footprint  for the company by 2030. + Amazon Image via Amazon

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Amazon plans to reach net-zero carbon use by 2030

4 emerging tech tools for EHS and sustainability professionals

February 21, 2019 by  
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Early adopters are turning to wearable sensors, drones and artificial intelligence to reduce risks and drive measurable results.

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4 emerging tech tools for EHS and sustainability professionals

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