How lagom the Swedish concept of ‘just right’ can help you live a balanced life

May 9, 2018 by  
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If there’s one word that defines our modern lives, it’s this: excess. We own too much stuff, too many things compete for our attention (Should I binge-watch a show on Netflix or check in on Snapchat? …Or maybe both at the same time?) and there is too much pressure to have the perfect life that everyone on Instagram seems to have. It’s overwhelming. And while many people are embracing minimalism to combat the exhaustion of modern life, it can be a bit too limiting. That’s why you need to know about the Swedish concept of ‘Lagom,’ which celebrates the idea of “just enough.” It’s the space between minimalism and living in excess. Image via Jen P. What is lagom? The Danish concept of hygge has captivated people around the world with its emphasis on embracing the simple pleasures in life. Lagom, on the other hand, is about finding balance in every aspect of your life. Instead of eschewing your phone to light some candles and relax, it’s about finding the right amount of time to connect with the world without feeling overwhelmed by it. At its essence, lagom means enjoying a simpler life so you can focus on what is really important and makes you happy. Related: 6 ways to make your life more “Hygge” – the Danish secret to happiness Lagom — pronounced lah-gom — is knowing what is essential in your life and knowing when something isn’t serving you. The Swedish embrace lagom as a lifestyle — in fact, it helps inform the particular brand of socialism that helps Sweden thrive. The idea is that nobody in society should have too much or too little. Some argue that lagom can be negative, because it is based on Lutheran self-denial. But we think that practicing lagom can help you improve your life by embracing ‘good enough.’ In Sweden, lagom can be illustrated by how Swedes seem perfectly happy in homes that are only a fraction of the size of homes in the U.S. Do we really need all that space? Then, you have to fill it with more stuff and clean it, when you could be just as happy in a home half the size . It is also better for the world if we do more with less, and that’s an important part of lagom — making choices that may require a bit of sacrifice to benefit the world. With lagom, less is more, and instead of buying things we do not need, it is about finding pleasure and fulfillment in moderation. It is the belief that extremes on the spectrum are bad. For instance, exercise is good, but none at all is just as detrimental as too much. Cooking at home is good, but not if it stresses you out, whereas dining out for every meal could be a disaster for your budget. Image via Jess Waters How do you embrace lagom? To find your inner lagom, you need to ask yourself one question: is this good enough? Or, is this just enough? If KonMari-style purging feels like yet another set of rules that you have to follow in order to live up to someone else’s standards, stop and ask yourself if perhaps a light spring de-cluttering is good enough for you. If the pressure to hygge-fy your life has turned from taking a cozy moment with a book to the frantic pursuit of the perfect chunky-knit blankets and the best organic candles, it’s time to step back and find a balance between calm and pressure. Image via Bench Accounting Live lagom at home When it comes to the home, the trend is to toss everything out to achieve a simple lifestyle. Lagom guides you to embrace what brings you joy and eliminate what doesn’t. A little ‘ clutter ‘ isn’t always a bad thing – if you get real pleasure from a bookcase full of knick-knacks or a drawer full of your favorite pens, go for it. Just make sure that what you keep is valuable and utilized. A shelf full of books is just a burden if you never read them. The same goes for anything that is cluttering up your space without a purpose. Are you really enjoying that bar cart that you bought because it looked cute on Pinterest? If not, give it away on Craigslist. Then, before adding anything else to your space, ask yourself if things are good enough already. The point is to find a simpler life that still has room for the things that make you happy. Image via Bethany Legg Pencil in lagom at work In your work life, apply lagom by knowing when enough is enough. Instead of putting in extra hours to look dedicated, think like the Swedes, who believe that putting in overtime means that you aren’t working efficiently enough during your regular hours. Accept that work is an important part of life, but find the balance between letting it be the main focus of your life and an unpleasant task you charge through as quickly as possible. Set expectations with your employer: you will give your best effort while you are in the office, but after eight hours, you are heading out to enjoy the rest of the day. Instead of banking those time-off hours, use them frequently to give yourself a mental recharge. Image via Brooke Lark Add lagom to your plate The concept of lagom really shines when it comes to eating because it’s all about moderation — you can literally have your cake and eat it, too. The Swedish recognize that there is a time for indulging in all the delicious goodies that make a celebration great, but there is also a time to moderate. The first step to eating lagom-style is to eliminate waste. If you are tossing out a great deal of food, and your ingredients had to travel across the planet to reach you, you are definitely not embracing lagom. Instead of eating imported fruits all year round, try to find local produce that is in season. When you have a craving for something sweet, do as the Swedes do and take a fika — a short coffee break accompanied by your favorite treat. Not every meal has to be a huge presentation – something simple will do most of the time. The point is not to impress your friends but to have something that you enjoy from start to finish, while being mindful of your impact on the world. Let lagom bring balance to your life Lagom is something that you can incorporate into nearly every aspect of life. Think like Goldilocks: you are looking for the bed that is just right. Embracing lagom will not only simplify everything, but it will ease your stress and help you find the kind of balance that is essential to being happy. Next time you are doing something because you feel like you have to, ask yourself if things aren’t already good enough as they are. And instead of feeling guilty for enjoying things you think you shouldn’t, have them in small doses. Finally, be mindful of what you bring into your life and realize that sometimes the simpler things will ultimately bring you the most joy. That’s the key to living lagom. Lead image via Robson Hatsukami Morgan

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How lagom the Swedish concept of ‘just right’ can help you live a balanced life

Global tourism’s carbon footprint is four times bigger than we thought

May 7, 2018 by  
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For the first time, researchers have quantified the  carbon footprint of global  tourism around the world – and their findings show that tourism’s impact is roughly four times greater than previously thought. The research, led by the Integrated Sustainability Analysis supply-chain research group at the University of Sydney , accounted for all components of the tourism industry, from travel to souvenirs. The group found global tourist activity is growing faster than international trade and already accounts for one-tenth of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The impact analysis took a year and a half to finish and included approximately one billion global supply chains. “Our analysis is a world-first look at the true cost of tourism—including consumables such as food from eating out and souvenirs—it’s a complete life-cycle assessment of global tourism, ensuring we don’t miss any impacts,” study co-author Dr. Arunima Malik told Phys.org . Not surprisingly, the researchers identified air travel as the major contributor to the overall emissions from global tourism. Related: 7 exotic off-grid Airbnb rental homes for adventurous travelers As much of the world experiences a period of strong economic growth, there is concern that this will result in greater greenhouse gas emissions. “We found the per-capita carbon footprint increases strongly with increased affluence and does not appear to satiate as incomes grow,” lead researcher Manfred Lenzen told Phys.org . The researchers recognize that high-level actions must be taken to counteract the ever-increasing emissions trend in tourism. “Given that tourism is set to grow faster than many other economic sectors, the international community may consider its inclusion in the future in climate commitments, such as the Paris Accord , by tying international flights to specific nations,” co-author Ya-Yen Sun told Phys.org . “ Carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes—in particular for aviation—may be required to curtail unchecked future growth in tourism-related emissions.” All this, however, will most certainly result in increased costs for air travelers. + University of Sydney Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos 1, 2

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Global tourism’s carbon footprint is four times bigger than we thought

Record-breaking paper water purifier operates at near 100% efficiency

May 7, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University at Buffalo have created a highly efficient device that uses sunlight and black carbon-dipped paper to clean water . The paper is placed in a triangular arrangement, which enables it to vaporize and absorb water with nearly 100 percent efficiency. The simple, inexpensive technology could be deployed in regions where clean drinking water is chronically unavailable or areas that have been acutely affected by natural disasters. “Our technique is able to produce drinking water at a faster pace than is theoretically calculated under natural sunlight,” said lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan in a statement . The solar still concept, which uses sunlight to purify water, is ancient; Aristotle described a similar technique more than 2,000 years ago. The difference is the new device’s ability to achieve ultra-high efficiency. “Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment,” Gan explained. “This makes the process less than 100 percent efficient. Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment, allowing us to achieve near-perfect efficiency.” The carbon -dipped paper’s sloped orientation is key in achieving this efficiency, allowing the bottom edges to soak up water while the outer coating absorbs solar heat to be used in evaporation. Related: This moss can naturally eliminate arsenic from water The research team prioritized simplicity and accessibility in its design. “Most groups working on solar evaporation technologies are trying to develop advanced materials, such as metallic plasmonic and carbon-based nanomaterials,” Gan said. “We focused on using extremely low-cost materials and were still able to realize record-breaking performance.” Through their recently launched start-up, Sunny Clean Water, the team hopes to increase access to their device for areas in need. “When you talk to government officials or nonprofits working in disaster zones, they want to know: ‘How much water can you generate every day?’ We have a strategy to boost daily performance,” said Haomin Song, an electrical engineering PhD graduate, in a statement . “With a solar still the size of a mini fridge, we estimate that we can generate 10 to 20 liters of clean water every single day.” + University at Buffalo Via Futurity Images via Huaxiu Chen and Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

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California is about to be the first US state to require solar power on new homes

May 7, 2018 by  
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California is taking a huge step forward in clean energy this week, as the state is expected to require solar energy for just about all new homes, The Orange County Register reported . The California Energy Commission is slated to vote this Wednesday on new standards mandating almost all new houses be equipped with solar panels , beginning in 2020, and it’s expected they’ll approve the move. The Golden State “is about to take a quantum leap in energy standards,” according to California Building Industry Association technical director Bob Raymer. If approved, the solar mandate would cover all houses, apartments, and condominiums as high as three stories obtaining building permits after January 1, 2020, according to The Orange County Register. There could be alternatives or exceptions allowed for structures shaded by other buildings or trees, or if a roof is too small to allow for solar panels. The new provisions would offer compliance credits for builders who install batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall , allowing them to cut the size of solar systems. Homes won’t need to reach true net zero status under these standards, according to The Orange County Register. Related: San Francisco approves measure to require solar panels on new buildings Compared against a 2006 code, these new standards would add around $25,000 to $30,000 to construction costs, according to Meritage Homes ‘ vice president of environmental affairs C.R. Herro speaking to The Orange County Register. $14,000 to $16,000 of that would go to solar; $10,000 to $15,000 would go to increased insulation and appliances, windows, heating, and lighting that is more efficient . Herro said the $25,000 to $30,000 would lead to $50,000 to $60,000 in reduced operating costs during the home solar power system’s 25-year lifespan. Homebuilder and former Orange County Building Industry Association president Bill Watt told The Orange County Register the added costs could mean home prices are too high for many buyers, saying, “We’re not building enough housing already. Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues , then circle back?” Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told The Orange County Register, “The technology is developing so fast, we think the timeline was a bit slow.” Via The Orange County Register Images via Pixabay and U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit

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New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel

May 4, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Michigan and McGill University in Montreal have created a device that uses sunlight to efficiently split fresh or salt water into hydrogen that may be used in fuel cells. The new machine, which mimics the process of photosynthesis , is capable of producing hydrogen fuel at twice the efficiency of previous technologies. Producing only water as an emission, hydrogen is the cleanest burning fuel. However, its production has historically not been environmentally friendly or energy efficient. This new device may change all that, paving the way to a cleaner energy future. “If we can directly store solar energy as a chemical fuel, like what nature does with photosynthesis, we could solve a fundamental challenge of renewable energy,” said lead researcher Zetian Mi . Unlike solar panels, which can only store energy if they are attached to a battery, the artificial photosynthesis device uses splits water to store solar energy as hydrogen fuel. Despite this fundamental difference from solar panels , the device is made from the same materials, such as silicon and gallium nitride, which is also found in LEDs. Related: Scientists create world’s first solar fuel reactor that works at night Small towers of gallium nitride generate an electric field to turn photons into free charges, which divide water into its two component elements, oxygen and hydrogen. In contrast with previous solar splitters, which had only reached 1 percent efficiency, Mi’s team managed to achieve a 3 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. “Although the 3 percent efficiency might seem low, when put in the context of the 40 years of research on this process, it’s actually a big breakthrough,” Mi said. “Natural photosynthesis, depending how you calculate it, has an efficiency of about 0.6 percent.” The device, further developed, may even be able to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, potentially alleviating the impact of climate change . Via Futurity Images via Faqrul A. Chowdhury/McGill University

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New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel

For the first time ever, all villages in India have electricity

April 30, 2018 by  
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India has just reached a major energy milestone: for the first time ever, every single one of its inhabited villages has electricity. There are nearly 600,000 villages in the country, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised that they would all be connected to power within 1,000 days of August 2015. Last Saturday, Leisang village was connected to India’s power grid, completing that promise. I salute the efforts of all those who worked tirelessly on the ground, including the team of officials, the technical staff and all others, to make this dream of a #PowerfulIndia a reality. Their efforts today will help generations of Indians in the coming years. pic.twitter.com/t8WjZgpNuT — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 29, 2018 While Leisang was connected to the main power grid, some villages have relied on off-grid supply networks, usually powered by solar . Pakol, a village in the same same state, was the last village to be powered by an off-grid system. The power initiative, which Modi tags as #PowerfulIndia, also seeks to strengthen metering and power distribution within the country. Leisang village in Manipur, like the thousands of other villages across India has been powered and empowered! This news will make every Indian proud and delighted. https://t.co/UCPEEITbIM #PowerfulIndia — Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 29, 2018 Related: The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun A village is considered to have power if 10 percent of its buildings have access to electricity . That means India has a long way to go before everyone has working power, but the successful initiative is a milestone nonetheless.” Village electrification means that the infrastructure to supply power has now reached certain parts of the village. The next step should be to focus on providing connection to all households and ensuring adequate power supply to these homes,” former power secretary P Uma Shankar said. It is up to individual homes to seek electrification if they choose. Via Times of India Image via Deposit Photos

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Germany just approved 1,610 megawatts of offshore wind power

April 30, 2018 by  
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Offshore wind turbines could soon provide more electricity for Germany — to the tune of 1,610 megawatts (MW). The country recently held an auction for companies that want to build offshore wind projects, ultimately granting six construction licenses. According to Reuters , the resulting wind energy parks will be able to produce as much power as a nuclear energy plant or two large gas- or coal-fired stations. Germany’s Federal Network Agency, or Bundesnetzagentur , recently announced the results of the offshore wind energy auction. The average price of winning bids was $46.60 Euros per megawatt-hour, according to Renewables Now , and the winning companies include Baltic Eagle, Iberdrola, Ørsted, KNK Wind, and Innogy. Three projects will be located in the North Sea and three in the Baltic Sea. The winners have the option to construct the offshore wind plants between 2021 and 2025, with rights to onshore connections and 25 years of plant operation. Related: World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland Wind energy appears to be soaring in Germany; according to the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation , a recent study from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy found that 338,600 people were employed in the renewable energy field as of 2016 — a 10,000-employee increase compared to the year before. The wind industry was the driving force behind the rise in numbers; it employed nearly half of the 338,600 renewable energy workers, and 27,200 were employed in the offshore wind power sector. The German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation also cited a Deutsche WindGuard analysis stating that, as of December 31, 2017, “1,169 wind turbines with an installed capacity of 5,387 MW were connected to the grid.” The foundation cited industry representatives as saying, “…offshore wind turbines make an increasing contribution to the security of Germany’s energy supply. They deliver clean power almost around the clock, every day of the year.” Reuters said the next auction round will take place in 2021. Via Reuters , Renewables Now , and the German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer

April 26, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Exeter and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health have concluded that there is a “strong link” between exposure to LED lighting and increased risk of breast and prostate cancer . The “blue light” emitted by LED lights seems to affect circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns, which then impacts hormone levels. “Humans have evolved to need light during the day and darkness at night,” researcher Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel told The Telegraph . “As towns and cities replace older lighting, we’re all exposed to higher levels of ‘blue’ lights, which can disrupt our biological clocks.” Previous research has documented the carcinogenic risk of night-shift work and artificial light . “We know that depending on its intensity and wave length, artificial light, particularly in the blue spectrum, can decrease melatonin production and secretion,” study co-author Martin Aubé explained to EurekAlert . In addition to regulating sleep cycles, melatonin functions as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Blue light, which is also emitted from tablet, phone , computer, and TV screens, is one of the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy forms of light. Related: A glowing glass “lantern” turns this energy-efficient office into a beacon This research comes as many cities are making the switch to LED streetlights, which are more energy-efficient and cheaper than traditional lighting. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives , the study included more than 4,000 people in 11 distinct regions of Spain in its analysis. It also incorporated images taken aboard the International Space Station to gain a fuller sense of blue light’s impact on a global scale. Public Health England has recommended further study of the impact of LED lighting before it is more widely adopted, while the American Medical Association has recommended that municipalities and businesses install the lowest-intensity LED lighting, with shading to provide additional protection. + Environmental Health Perspectives Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos (1)

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11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

April 26, 2018 by  
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Designers awed and inspired attendees at this year’s Milan Design Week with fresh takes on contemporary design. From unexpected uses for wood and recycled materials to advanced lighting technology , we spotted countless incredible projects throughout the event — read on for 11 of our favorite designs from Milan Design Week 2018. Sila lamp by Zsuzsanna Horvath Helsinki-based Hungarian architect Zsuzsanna Horvath developed the Sila lamp – an elegant lamp that emerges from a two-dimensional plane of laser-cut birch plywood. The lamp’s structure is made with thin, delicate slivers of plywood connected by a flexible OLED panel. With its soft light and delicate shape, this lamp is a perfect addition for quiet and cozy interiors. Bread chair by Mika Tsutai This Bread Chair by Japanese designer Mika Tsutai is definitely an object of good taste… and good humor. Inspired by the unpredictable shape of bread, Tsutai kneaded dough — real dough, made from flour — shaped it into a chair, and baked it. The baked piece was scanned, and a digital model was created. The designer used this model to carve the same shape from wood. The unique shape reflects the random swelling of bread after baking. Macaron seat by Kalo Kalo created the Macaron Seat by using locally-recycled bits of rubber. Each seat is crafted by pressing a mold onto a wooden frame. This seat catches the eye using juxtapositions: smooth wooden legs contrast with a textured seat and a shining brass element along the edges of the dark rubber. Halo lamp by Mandalaki Designed by the Milan-based Mandalaki office, the Halo lamp is a bold combination of art and technology. Unlike most lamps, Halo does not provide neutral white illumination. Instead, it dyes space with vivid, unexpected colors. The vivid colors are produced by analog optical decomposition instead of an RGB LED. Mandalaki developed a dichroic filter to divide the pure luminous flux, or the measure of perceived light, into a vast spectrum of colors. Sundial clock by YOY You don’t need sunlight to use this Sundial wall clock by Tokyo-based design studio YOY. Although at first sight it seems to be a real sundial, it is only an illusion. Part of the “Fictionality” collection, this clock has a regular bar as the minute hand and a “shadow” as the hour hand, which is imprinted on the clock’s face. Surprisingly, the entire clock rotates to show the correct time. Plug It by Studio Oberhauser Instead of discarding thousands of small wood scraps from the industrial production of furniture, Studio Oberhauser created Plug It to exemplify the beauty of recycling. The studio suggests that stacking the comb-shaped wood chips to craft pieces of furniture can be a fun and functional game for everyone. Sea of Plastic by EcoBirdy EcoBirdy’s main goal is to reduce the sea of plastic . To do this, the company crafted children’s furniture entirely from recycled plastic. Plus, each item can be easily recycled again. The Antwerp-based designers have also involved children in this socially- and environmentally-responsible act by designing a storybook and a school program that teaches children about sustainable living. D.01 bench by Davide Montanaro Wood appears to be a stiff and rigid material, but it can be made to bend with just the right touch. Dukta is a unique incision process that can make wood into a flexible, manageable material. Davide Montanaro used this process to design the plywood D.01 bench and ensured the piece had character with its smooth shape and distinct pattern. S-Lab clock by 4R 4R made the S-Lab clock using recycled plastic. The entire production process, from collection to melting and molding was completed in-house. The designers were able to control the color, pattern and texture of the clock. With this project, the team hopes to continue working and exploring with plastic in their designs. Woodencap by Rootpecker Rootpecker has made design history by creating the first wooden cap in the world. The hat is handmade in Germany and features a smooth, flexible wood surface and intricate stitching. The company aims to source only eco-friendly materials for their unique products. Paper and Light by Denis Guidone and Tomoko Fuse Designer Denis Guidone and origami artist Tomoko Fuse created Paper and Light to blend classic and contemporary techniques. This project includes a series of lamps made from folded washi, a traditional Japanese paper. The folded light installments illuminate the area and create playful shadows. + Milan Design Week Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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11 inspiring designs we loved at Milan Design Week 2018

UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

April 26, 2018 by  
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Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal . It didn’t take them long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel — “for the first time since the 1880s,” according to a National Grid Twitter account . For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network. — National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018 The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account . This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian , “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.” The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes. Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN — UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018 Related: The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas , 24.9 percent from wind , 23.3 percent from nuclear , 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar . Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB , cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.” More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers. At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon? Via CleanTechnica and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

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