How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative

October 1, 2018 by  
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Scientists agree that the dairy industry has an overall negative affect on the environment. For starters, it takes a lot of land, fertilizer and water to grow food for the cows. It also takes a lot of energy to process raw milk , package it and deliver the goods to supermarkets around the world. Then, there is the fact that cows generate loads of methane, which is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. With the dairy industry disrupting the environment, more people are turning to alternative sources to meet their dietary needs. There are a variety of milk alternatives on the market these days, including almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, soy milk and pea protein milk — each with its pros and cons. If you are considering ditching cow’s milk for something more sustainable, here is a quick guide to the best milk alternatives and how they impact the environment . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Almond Milk Almonds feature a plethora of health benefits, including good fats, flavonoids and protein. Almond milk, on the other hand, does not include the same amount of nutrients. In fact, many of the benefits found in almonds are not present in almond milk, because it only contains about 2 percent of almonds. While it might not compare to regular almonds, this milk does not have a lot of calories and is usually fortified with additional calcium and vitamins. That said, you have to be careful when purchasing almond milk, because many products are not fortified and provide little nutritional value. Although almond milk seems like a great milk alternative, its environmental impact is fairly high. The biggest problem with almonds is that they require a lot of water to produce. On average, it takes a little over a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Even worse, many almond growers are located in California , which has suffered extreme droughts over the past few years. Related: DIY vegan almond feta cheese Coconut Milk Like almond milk, coconut milk does not feature as many nutritional benefits as you might think. Aside from being low in calories, coconut milk features little on the vitamin and protein front. It also has a watery texture and does not pair well with other foods. Fortunately, companies fortify coconut milk to make it healthier, making it a viable milk alternative. Another positive aspect of coconut milk is that it has a very low environmental impact. The farms are eco-friendly and use small amounts of water to produce coconuts. Coconut trees can also filter out carbon dioxide, which is great for combating greenhouse gases . The transportation and processing are the only environmental impacts to consider in the production of coconuts. Rice Milk Rice is farmed all over the globe and requires a lot of water to produce. The plus side is that there are new varieties that make farming rice less damaging to the environment. The downside is that a lot of modern varieties are genetically modified, which many countries have deemed unsafe. There is also the risk of arsenic contamination in rice paddies. When it comes to taste and texture, rice milk is about as close as you can get to cow’s milk. It is naturally sweet and pairs well with cereal or cookies. It is a little more watery than traditional milk, but its sweet flavor makes it a good milk alternative. Rice milk is also good for people who suffer from lactose or nut allergies, and it can be fortified to include more vitamins and calcium. It is, however, low in protein. Related: DIY gluten-free flours with a coffee grinder Hemp Milk There are a lot of health benefits associated with hemp milk. This milk contains plenty of protein and important fatty acids. These fats are good for improving the cardiovascular system, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and fortifying skin. The one downside to hemp milk is that a lot of the nutrients are stripped away in the production process, although plenty still remain to make this a healthy milk alternative. As far as the environment is concerned, hemp production is actually quite eco-friendly. This plant is hardy, meaning less pesticides and sprays are needed to combat weeds. Hemp also helps fight global warming by filtering out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Just about every part of the hemp plant is usable, resulting in less waste than other plants on this list. Oat Milk Oats have long been used to fight bad cholesterol, and these same nutrients are present in oak milk. The only catch is that you have to consume a handful of servings every day to get the benefits. While oat milk also contains B vitamins, it does not have as much protein and minerals as other milk alternatives. There are companies, however, that fortify oat milk, which adds in extra vitamins. Like most plant-based milks, it takes a lot of energy to turn oats into milk. Oats, however, contribute less carbon to the atmosphere than other plants and require less water to grow. For example, it takes six times as much water to grow almonds than it does oats. This lessens the environmental hazards in the oat industry, making it a sustainable milk alternative. Soy Milk The nutritional value of soy milk is close to cow’s milk. It has plenty of macronutrients, carbohydrates and fat. The main difference is that it does not have large concentrations of iodine, B vitamins, calcium or lactose. Soy is a plant product, so sugar is added to make it sweeter (there are unsweetened options on the market). The main downside to soy, however, is its negative environmental impact. Soy requires massive chunks of land and pesticides to produce. This crop is also genetically modified to better withstand various growing conditions and combat pests. There are large areas of the Amazon rainforest that are being destroyed in order to grow soy. If you think soy is a viable alternative to traditional milk in your diet, consider purchasing organic brands that are produced only in the U.S. Pea Protein Milk With the amount of protein per glass matching cow’s milk, pea protein milk is a healthy alternative to dairy. It also boasts enough omega-3s and calcium to rival traditional milk. Unsweetened options contain a fraction of the sugars found in milk, but the chalky, flour-like taste of pea protein milk will leave many choosing a sweetened option. Still, this amount of protein in an alternative milk is hard to come by. Better yet, pea protein milk is a great option for eco-conscious consumers. Peas can often grow without irrigation and are easily rotated by farmers, naturally fixing nitrogen in soil and reducing the need for artificial fertilizers. Growing peas requires up to six times less water than almonds, and this milk alternative has a much smaller carbon footprint than dairy. Via Sierra Club , Grist , Huffington Post  and NPR Images via  Adrienne Leonard , Nathan Dumlao , Vegan Feast Catering , Raw Pixel ,  Nikolai Chernichenko and Shutterstock

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Bio-inspired membrane captures 90% of CO2 in power plant emissions

May 8, 2018 by  
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Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new biologically inspired membrane that can capture carbon dioxide from power plant smoke. Sandia fellow and University of New Mexico regents’ professor Jeff Brinker said, “Our inexpensive method follows nature’s lead in our use of a water-based membrane only 18 nanometers thick that incorporates natural enzymes to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide released. This is almost 70 percent better than current commercial methods, and it’s done at a fraction of the cost.” Brinker said that, in the past, it has been prohibitively expensive to remove CO2 from coal smoke with available polymer membranes. However, his team’s membrane boasts a “relatively low cost of $40 per ton.” The researchers call the membrane a ‘memzyme’ because it operates like a filter but is near-saturated with carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme “developed by living cells over millions of years to help rid themselves of carbon dioxide efficiently and rapidly.” University of New Mexico professor Ying-Bing Jiang came up with the concept of employing watery membranes, inspired by processes in the human body that separate out CO2. Brinker said the arrangement of the membrane inside the flue of a generating station would be similar to a catalytic converter in a car. Related: 18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change The work is patented and energy companies have shown interest. In addition, the membranes have worked efficiently for months in laboratory settings. Nature Communications published the work online earlier this month; researchers from other institutions in the United States contributed. + Sandia National Laboratories + Nature Communications Images via Randy Montoya and courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories

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Bio-inspired membrane captures 90% of CO2 in power plant emissions

Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

March 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have calculated that stronger climate regulations across the globe could help prevent up to 150 million premature deaths. Much of the public health benefits of strictly regulating greenhouse gases would be concentrated in South Asia, with nearly 13 million lives spared in large Indian cities alone if air pollution is curtailed. Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria would also experience more than 2 million fewer deaths under strong international greenhouse gas regulation. While the Clean Air Act has improved public health outcomes in the United States, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved in the cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta , Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington if stricter greenhouse gas regulations were implemented. “Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” study lead author Drew Shindell told the Washington Post . “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know. It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.” Related: Despite Trump’s rhetoric, US officials are still working to stop climate change To determine the public health benefits of stricter greenhouse gas regulations, the research team created computer simulations of future emissions and pollutants. According to a statement , they then “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths.” However promising the benefits of strong climate change regulations may be, time is running out, says Shindell. “There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late.” Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

World’s first mass-producible 3D-printed electric car will cost under $10K

March 21, 2018 by  
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The world’s first mass-producible, 3D-printed electric car is set to revolutionize the auto industry. An Italy-based electric car company XEV and 3D printing material company Polymaker launched the tiny LSEV during a recent press conference held at the 3D-Printing Cultural Museum in Shanghai. Co-founder and CEO of Polymaker, Dr. Luo Xiaofan, said in a statement, “XEV is the first real mass production project using 3D printing. By saying real, I mean there are also lots of other companies using 3D printing for production. But nothing can really compare with XEV in terms of the size, the scale, and the intensity.” CNBC reports that the $7,500 car, which weighs just 992 pounds, can be printed in a matter of just three days. But it’s hardly a performance vehicle, reaching a top speed of about 43 miles per hour. With a range of 93 miles on a single charge, it won’t be great for cross-country travel, but it’s perfect for zipping around a crowded city. Related: Honda’s tiny urban EV could be available to order next year And how are they able to keep down costs? The secret lies in 3D-printing , according to Polymaker. They shrunk the number of plastic parts and components from 2,000 to 57, which also makes the LSEV a lot lighter than a standard, comparable vehicle. All of the EV’s visible parts were printed, except for the chassis, seats and glass. XEV has reportedly received 7,000 orders for the car already. They plan to start production in the second quarter of 2019. “This strategic partnership between XEV and Polymaker leads to a revolutionary change in automotive manufacturing,” writes Polymaker. “It is possible that similar changes, related with 3D printing technology, will happen to every aspect of manufacturing very soon.” Via Polymaker All images via Polymaker

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World’s first mass-producible 3D-printed electric car will cost under $10K

HOW TO: Turn your food waste into clean energy

February 21, 2018 by  
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Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food ends up lost or wasted — 46 percent of the world’s garbage. While the global food waste situation is what you’d call a “doozy,” consumers and companies like HomeBiogas are determined to turn food waste into clean, usable energy. Read on to find out how. What Is HomeBiogas? HomeBiogas is one of several successful projects to come about from Kickstarter. The Israeli company, which began its crowdfunding efforts in 2015, focuses on turning everyday food waste into energy for your home. How do they do it? With compact, household-sized biogas digesters that support anaerobic digestion, a process with zero oxygen and hungry bacteria that are ready to dive into last week’s moldy bread. Since the company’s launch in 2015, consumers have responded enthusiastically to their efforts. In fact, they blew past their crowdfunding goal for both biogas products. The second version, HomeBiogas 2.0 , exceeded its initial goal by more than 400 percent. In dollars and cents, that translates to more than $490,000. How Does HomeBiogas Work? OK, so consumers love it, but how does HomeBiogas work? Like the 27 million biogas plants in China, but on a smaller, less commercial scale. The process is alike, however, because every biogas system operates on the same premise — anaerobic digestion. Here’s a breakdown — pun intended — of the HomeBiogas process: 1. A user pours food waste into a funnel, where it enters the oxygen-free tank. 2. Water and bacteria begin digestion. Bacteria can come from a starter kit or from nitrogen-rich substances like chicken manure and shellfish shells. 3. Fermentation produces methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases. 4. Gas enters a storage tank for use via a pipe to your kitchen. 5. Liquid fertilizer becomes accessible via a spout for use in landscaping. In addition to bacteria, sunlight also contributes to biogas. Why? Bacteria love and thrive in heat, which means a well-placed HomeBiogas in a climate with temperatures around 68 degrees Fahrenheit digests food waste at a more efficient rate, which translates to more clean energy for you. What Does HomeBiogas 2.0 Do Better? With the basics of anaerobic digestion established, as well as the processes behind the original HomeBiogas, it’s time to explore how HomeBiogas 2.0 offers an edge over its predecessor: Upgraded efficiency: The new model promises a 50 percent boost to its processes. Increased capacity: HomeBiogas 2.0 doubles its storage with space to hold up to 185 gallons. Improved construction: The latest biogas digestor offers a lighter weight, plus more durable build. Enhanced installation: HomeBiogas 2.0 requires only an hour of your time to install. And if you’re worried about HomeBiogas filling your home with the nose-assaulting smell of decomposing food, forget about it. The team equipped its products with an airtight seal and filter, while using water to submerge food waste in the tank eliminates odor. How Can You Use This Clean Energy? Back in the 2000s, The Black Eyed Peas asked, “What you gon’ do with all that junk?” While they weren’t referencing food waste, there are plenty of ways to use the clean energy from your converted organic junk. Applications for the clean energy and liquid fertilizer produced by a HomeBiogas include: Powering your stove or grill: Cook up to three hours each day. Just place your HomeBiogas less than 65 feet from your kitchen or patio and connect the two with an included pipe. The biogas can connect to a countertop stove or double-burner setup. Fertilizing your gardens: Nurture your gardens with the liquid fertilizer produced by anaerobic digestion. HomeBiogas 2.0 features a user-friendly pouring sleeve, which makes it easy to dispense fertilizer into a water pail. Helping your neighbor: Support families in underserved communities. When you purchase a HomeBiogas 2.0, the company directs some of those funds to install their products in countries like Jordan and Uganda to combat indoor air pollution from cooking fuels. Like solar, wind and geothermal, biogas is a renewable energy source — and one that’s financially viable for consumers. As long as you have access to organic materials, like plants, you can count on the energy from biogas. As an additional benefit, biogas powers itself with pre-existing waste. What Does HomeBiogas Mean for the Future? Our planet wastes an enormous amount of food, yet the efforts of HomeBiogas and consumers around the globe demonstrate there is a motivation to do better and to reduce the waste that’s dominating the world’s landfills. What does that mean for the future? Hopefully that more people will adopt a lifestyle that thrives on clean, green energy. + HomeBiogas Images via HomeBiogas

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18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

December 8, 2017 by  
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Even with quick-paced developments in renewable energy , the world still produces the vast majority of its power via fossil fuels : over 80 percent . 18-year-old Ethan Novek is working on technology that could allow us to burn fossil fuels without climate change-inducing emissions , giving us time to install more renewable energy. His carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology stands out from the rest because it could capture CO2 at about $10 per metric ton – around 85 percent less than the industry standard. Novek made the discovery that would lead to his potentially game-changing technology in his high school chemistry laboratory. CO2 capture technology has traditionally drawn on a substance such as amine that selectively reacts with just CO2 as other gases escape. The substance is then heated to break the chemical bond for a release of the greenhouse gas that can be converted into products. But the amines used are expensive, and it takes a lot of heat to break that bond. Novek’s discovery could overcome these issues. Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich In his high school laboratory, Novek was hoping to utilize a technique known as salting out to cheaply produce urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer. He realized he could actually use the process to separate out and capture CO2 after fossil fuels are burned. Here’s how it could work: at a fossil fuel plant, exhaust gases could be piped into a mix of water and ammonia. Inert gases like oxygen would escape as ammonia reacted with CO2, forming a salt. A solvent could break the salt back into CO2 and ammonia. Distillation could separate the ammonia and solvent mix so each component could be recycled. And the CO2 could be transformed into chemicals like acetic acid or synthetic gas. The CO2 capture process needs 75 percent less energy than others. Novek attracted the attention of Yale University professor Menachem Elimelech, and with other Yale researchers they wrote a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Novek started a company, Innovator Energy , and is working on a pilot plant that could use waste gas from a chemical factory or power plant to capture 1,000 kilograms of carbon emissions per day. + Innovator Energy Via Quartz Images via Carbon XPRIZE and Depositphotos

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CO2 levels in Earths atmosphere hit a record high in 2016

October 30, 2017 by  
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2016 was a year for breaking records — and not all of them were good. Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest month in the modern temperature record – and a new report shows that CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere hit their highest point in 800,000 years. “The abrupt changes in the atmosphere witnessed in the past 70 years are without precedent,” said the report published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Every year, the Geneva-based organization compiles data for its annual greenhouse gas report. While reviewing 2016’s data, it cited a combination of “human activities” and “a strong El Niño event” as the reasons why CO2 levels increased so abruptly. CNN reports that the last time Earth experienced similar levels of concentrated CO2 in the atmosphere was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer and the sea level was 10-20 meters higher than it is now. “Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions , we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.” In 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement , which outlines specific emissions targets each nation must meet to prevent climate change from worsening. The United States, under President Donald Trump’s leadership, is the only developed nation that hasn’t agreed to join the Paris accord. As a result, some US states have joined together and set their own emissions goals that are in line with the Paris treaty. Related: The world will run out of breathable air unless carbon emissions are cut In October, the UN Environment Programme will release a separate Emissions Gap Report. This report keeps track of the policy commitments each country has made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also analyzes how present policies will meet 2030 goals. “The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed,” said Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme. “The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy , but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive. We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.” + World Meteorological Organization Via CNN Images via Pexels, Pixabay

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CO2 levels in Earths atmosphere hit a record high in 2016

LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks

October 30, 2017 by  
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LEGO lets people enjoy the beauty of some of the world’s most iconic buildings, one stunning model at a time. Now, their collection of LEGO architecture models  is getting even better, because the company is relaunching an old favorite, the Taj Mahal. Originally released in 2008, the majestic building is back almost ten years later with an improved building experience that includes 5,900 pieces that capture the building’s most intricate details. Easily one of the most recognizable designs in the world , the iconic Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, the Empress Mumtaz Mahal. The building’s four facades are covered in a series of sophisticated arches, balconies and windows that give the design its unmistakable majestic character. A large central dome is surrounded by subsidiary domed chambers and a number of minarets covered in intricate finials. Related: LEGO celebrates Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday with Guggenheim Museum kit The original LEGO Architecture model of the Taj Mahal, which was released almost ten years ago, was one of the company’s most popular architectural sets. The brand new version carefully recreates the icon’s beautiful details, down to the ornate detailing and intricate tile work. As one of the largest LEGO models ever released, its dividable into seven modular sections to make for easy transportation. At almost 6,000 pieces, the set is sure to inspire both budding architects and serious LEGO fans. The LEGO Taj Mahal model will be available November 27th. + LEGO Architecture

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LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks

Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

September 28, 2017 by  
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The fall of coal and rise of renewable energy could be reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions . The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) published data this week showing global CO2 emissions remained stationary in 2016. Economist Nicholas Stern said, “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases .” Every one of the largest emitting nations, minus India, saw their carbon emissions stay the same or fall. While that’s great news, the same can’t be said of all countries: Indonesia, for example, saw carbon emissions rise, as did Malaysia, Turkey, the Philippines, and Ukraine. NEAA attributed the slowdown in increasing CO2 emissions to switching away from coal to natural gas and renewable energy. Related: The world’s CO2 emissions have not increased in the past three years While NEAA said global CO2 emission levels “were more or less stable in 2015 and 2016,” total global greenhouse gas emissions did increase by around 0.5 percent. NEAA said that rise was largely due to an increase in non-CO2 emission levels, from compounds like nitrous oxide, methane , and fluorinated gases. NEAA report chief researcher Jos Olivier said, “There is no guarantee that CO2 emissions will from now on be flat or descending.” There’s still a victory for some major emitters. China saw CO2 emissions fall by 0.3 percent last year. The United States’ CO2 emissions fell by two percent, Russia’s by 2.1 percent, and the United Kingdom’s by 6.4 percent. The European Union’s emissions stayed flat. We need to keep taking climate action ; Stern said in order to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement , nations must accelerate their emissions reductions. But he still seemed hopeful, saying, “These results from the Dutch government show that there is a real opportunity to get on track.” Via Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and The Guardian Images via Petter Rudwall on Unsplash and Antonio Garcia on Unsplash

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Here’s some climate hope: global CO2 emissions stayed static last year

Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

September 5, 2017 by  
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Industrial agriculture is blamed as a major cause of greenhouse gas, but what if there was a way to sustainably produce food that could help solve some of the world’s toughest environmental problems? That’s what the folks at SPACE10 , a Copenhagen-based future-living lab, tackled with the futuristic Algae Dome, a four-meter-tall food-producing architecture pavilion that pumps out oxygen in a closed-loop system. Powered by solar energy, the Algae Dome offers a sustainable and hyper-local food system that can pop up almost anywhere with minimal impact on the environment. Architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz, and bioengineer Keenan Pinto created the Algae Dome, which was presented at the CHART art fair in Copenhagen last week. Although SPACE10 has experimented with growing microgreens before, the team targets an even smaller food with the Algae Dome—micro-algae. Praised as a future “superfood,” micro-algae is said to contain twice as much protein as meat and is packed with vitamins and minerals, with more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than found in spinach, according to SPACE10. Even better? Micro-algae are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms and can be grown with sunshine and water almost anywhere, all while sucking up carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen in the process. Related: SPACE10 creates an open-source Growroom you can build at home During the three-day CHART art fair, the Algae Dome produced 450 liters of micro-algae and provided an interactive architectural experience that was part food system, part furniture, and wholly educational. The large amount of food was produced in a surprisingly small amount of space thanks to the design that featured 320 meters of coiled tubing, showing off the flow of emerald green micro-algae. Visitors were invited to sit inside the pavilion and enjoy a “breath of fresh air” created by the micro-algae as it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. Packets of delicious spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) chips, created by SPACE10’s chef-in-residence Simon Perez, were placed around the pavilion to give passersby the chance to try the superfood. “In the future, different species of microalgae could be used as a form of nutrient-rich food, as a replacement for soy protein in animal feed, in the development of biofuels, as a way to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and as a method of treating industrial wastewater,” said SPACE10. “In other words, microalgae could help combat malnutrition, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels , help stop the destruction of the rainforest, improve air quality, and reduce pollution. Little wonder that microalgae has been dubbed the future’s sustainable super crop.” SPACE10 sees the Algae Dome as the prototype for food-producing architecture that could pop up virtually anywhere, from bus stops to apartment complexes. + SPACE10 Picture credit: Niklas Adrian Vindelev

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Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

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