Surprising ways seaweed benefits the environment

August 19, 2020 by  
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While the news often mentions the terrible things in the sea, such as gyres of plastic and other trash, the oceans also hold an extremely valuable resource: seaweed. This renewable and easily harvestable organism is used for everything from food to spa treatments to a possible  COVID-19 medicine. This eco-friendly ingredient also features in many common products, including paint, toothpaste, ice cream and beer. Farming seaweed People collect seaweed both wild and cultivated from seaweed  farms . Wild picking involves either wading into the seawater to gather the slippery crop or picking it up off the shoreline. Especially abundant harvests usually come post-storm when seaweed washes onshore. For centuries, people gathered seaweed using this traditional method. Nowadays, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 96% of global seaweed production comes from farms instead of wild gathering. Depending on the type of seaweed grown, farming may involve attaching the seaweed to rope lines suspended in the sea just off the coast, or growing the seaweed in nets. Seaweed farming in Japan started in the 1600s, and the practice may date back to the 15th century in Korea. Other parts of Asia, including  China , Indonesia and the Philippines, also produce seaweed for food and other products. In the Philippines alone, about 40,000 people made their living from seaweed production in the late 90s. When it’s time to harvest seaweed, people in most seaweed-growing countries use boats and machinery like rakes or trawlers. While easier than hand collection, harvesting with these tools can adversely affect habitats and wreck sea animals’ homes. To combat this, farmers in Norway devised a rake method that only removes the floating top canopy of seaweed, this avoiding seabed disruption. Seaweed helping the environment Farming seaweed might even improve the sea’s health, according to findings from Chinese researchers in a 2019 issue of  Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment . Research found that seaweed aquaculture can help combat eutrophication, the process whereby water becomes so overly enriched with nutrients that it causes excessive algae growth and oxygen depletion. The study discovered that seaweed aquaculture removed more than 75,000 metric tons of nitrogen and more than 9,500 metric tons of phosphate from coastal waters. Seaweed aquaculture also sequestered and absorbed a large amount of CO2 and released more than a million metric tons of oxygen. As a natural filter, seaweed helps remove pollutants from the environment; this does mean people should eat seaweed in moderation, though, as it can contain high levels of metals and iodine. In addition to keeping oceans healthy, seaweed also helps terrestrial farmers. When used as fertilizer, seaweed helps farmers avoid using nearly 30,000 tons of chemical fertilizers. Summarizing these benefits, the seaweed study’s authors wrote, “These results demonstrate that Chinese seaweed aquaculture has turned the  pollutants  that cause eutrophication into nutrients, which generates considerable environmental benefits as well as socio-economic values.” Seaweed in cosmetics and medicine Diverse parts of the world use seaweed in  cosmetics , too. Many Tanzanian women farm seaweed for export to China, Korea, Vietnam and other countries that use it as an ingredient in cosmetics and skincare products.  Even Ireland has harvested seaweed for hundreds of years. A 12th-century poem recounts how monks distributed edible seaweed to hungry poor people. In the early 20th century, the Irish coast housed nearly 300 seaweed bathhouses. You can still find some places in County Sligo to take a traditional seaweed bath. “This is our traditional spa treatment,” said Neil Walton, owner of Voya Seaweed Baths in the town of Strandhill. Scientists continue searching for more health benefits from  seaweed . The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has even explored using seaweed extract to treat COVID-19. This extract contains variations of heparin, a common anticoagulant. Though heparin usually comes from animal tissue, this seaweed alternative may become popular. If so, this could lower costs for seaweed as a biofuel resource. Seaweed as biofuel Seaweed aquaculture may also increase the use of biomass as  renewable energy . In 2015, biomass-derived energy accounted for about 5% of U.S. energy use . Biomass energy encompasses plant and animal-derived energy, such as food crop waste, animal farming, human sewage, wood or forest residue and horticultural byproducts. So far, seaweed as biofuel has garnered little commercial interest, and the market remains mostly unexplored. But the industry holds great potential. According to Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a United States government agency that funds and promotes research and development of energy technologies, U.S. seaweed cultivation could reach 500 million tons and provide more energy than 23 billion gallons of gasoline. Seaweed farming paired with other industries Seaweed farming can also work with other industries, such as fish farming. Some environmental experts worry that open-sea fisheries negatively impact ecosystems due to the excess fish feed and fish feces floating in the water. Integrating seaweed production into fish farms could help reduce nitrogen  emissions  and break down other pollutants. A seaweed farm could also pair well with an offshore  wind farm . The first such operation is being built by Belgian-Dutch consortium Wier & Wind this year. The company plans to grow patches of seaweed for biofuel between large turbines 23 km off Zeebrugge in Belgium. This combination may lead to a genius symbiotic relationship. Seaweed production would make use of large open spaces between turbines, and the turbines would prevent ships from running over floating seaweed. Images via Pixabay,  Rich Brooks ,  Ronald Tagra  and  Gregg Gorman

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Surprising ways seaweed benefits the environment

Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a climate-correcting machine

December 18, 2019 by  
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To raise awareness about climate change, Obra Architects has created the Perpetual Spring , an eye-catching pavilion at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea. Dubbed a “climate-correcting machine,” the installation uses greenhouse technology to create perpetual, spring-like weather conditions through the fall and winter in reference to global warming . The climate control system and informational audio-visual displays are also powered by solar energy generated by photovoltaic panels on the museum’s roof. Open to the public in a highly trafficked museum courtyard, the Perpetual Spring pavilion invites visitors to gather and discuss ideas in an environment that the designers say encourages progressive social change. Citing revolutions such as The Spring of Nations of 1848 and The Prague Spring of 1968, the designers assert that fair weather is a contributing factor to the kind of positive collective action needed to tackle climate change and inspire greater environmental stewardship. Related: Artist unveils sand-covered traffic jam on Miami beach to protest climate change “This project is a demonstration, a chance to focus public attention on issues of the city, climate change , our environment and the future,” the firm said. “In this unique experimental installation, we combine elements that will be used as a public platform for events to further broadcast our message as both a work of architecture, a work of art + technology + engineering, a work of social impact.” The metal pavilion is punctuated with 150 polycarbonate domes, each 90 centimeters in diameter, that the designers have likened to the eyes of an insect. These “eyes” aid in the greenhouse effect and give the building a dynamic, bulging appearance. In addition to passive solar heating, the pavilion is outfitted with solar-powered automatic exhaust fans, aluminum foil curtains and a phase-change radiant floor heating system. A garden will grow inside the pavilion during the fall and winter months. Perpetual Spring will remain on display at the museum until April 5, 2020. + Perpetual Spring Images via Obra Architects

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Obra Architects stimulates climate change discussion with a climate-correcting machine

Pamper your partner with these eco-friendly gift ideas

December 18, 2019 by  
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Getting your significant other a holiday gift can be a daunting task, but if you go green, you’ll win every time. Here are Inhabitat’s recommendations for eco-conscious gifts that will show your partner and the planet plenty of love this holiday season. Repast Supply Co.’s wooden kitchenware and dining furniture Repast Supply Co. is a woodworking company that plants 10 trees for every piece of furniture it builds. Its furniture includes credenzas, dining tables, side tables, seating and benches. The Repast Supply kitchenware product line includes wooden rolling pins, ravioli boxes, bigolaros, polenta boards, cutting boards and wine totes. As an added bonus, it has recipes on its website for dishes like gluten-free ravioli with port-poached pear filling or ricotta-goat cheese ravioli with radishes for the refined palate. Any of these items are a great set-up for many romantic dinners to come. Related: Eco-friendly subscription boxes to gift this holiday season JOCO reusable, glass coffee cups JOCO has been a strong advocate for the “Refuse all plastic, stop disposable waste” message. The company has thereby created reusable coffee cups “designed for a lifetime of use,” thanks to being 100 percent plastic-free and certified non-toxic. Moreover, these reusable cups are “made by artists, not machines,” for they have been “artisan-blown.” Besides the coffee cups, JOCO also offers bottles, glassware and accessories. Accessories include silicone thermal sleeves and splash-safe lids that are 100 percent BPA-free. Recycled glass artworks Upcycling glass is a good way to minimize waste and create eco-art for all to enjoy. For example, Kitras Art Glass makes hand-blown ornaments from recycled glass. Refresh Glass , meanwhile, has rescued over 1.5 million bottles and continues to upcycle them into gifts, like self-watering planters, carafe and glass sets and personalized glass sets. EvrBottle similarly gives bottles new life as tumblers, vases, lamps, jars and candle holders. Bureo sunglasses and skateboards All of Bureo’s products are made from recycled fishing nets . Its top-sellers include skateboards and sunglasses, and it also has the first Jenga game ( called Jenga Ocean ) made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets. Bureo’s gift sets include insulated canteens, flying discs, mugs and surf fins, all made from recycled fishing nets as well. ReFleece ReFleece sources reclaimed textiles from the outdoor industry and makes felt from recycled bottles. The company makes all of its products in the U.S., too. ReFleece merchandise to gift this holiday season includes zippered pocket pouches, slim wallets, e-reader cases, iPad sleeves and wine totes. Personal care products from The Humble Co. Vegan , cruelty-free and certified organic, The Humble Co. has many eco-friendly and socially responsible products on offer. The Humble Brush is described as “the world’s most-sold bamboo toothbrush with a handle made from 100 percent biodegradable, sustainably grown bamboo.” The toothbrushes can be accessorized with a bamboo storage case or a bamboo stand to hold the Humble Brush. The Humble Co. also has natural toothpastes, including tablets, and non-toxic mouthwash that would all make for great stocking-stuffers. Because bamboo is The Humble Co.’s material of choice, it also sells bamboo cotton swabs and reusable, natural bamboo straws. Sleep masks and bedding from SOL Organics For a good night’s rest, consider organic cotton eye masks. Optimal health depends on getting enough sleep, and that can be helped with a sleep mask that both fits comfortably and blocks out the light. Plus, with organic cotton as the material, your partner will sleep better knowing it is eco-friendly. SOL Organics ‘ sleep mask is a fair-trade eye mask that is made of 100 percent organic cotton and has the GOTS certification. SOL Organics’ product inventory also includes sheets, bedding bundles, duvets, downs, and even robes and towels. Birdhouse succulent planter For those who love birds, plants, gardens or all of the above, then Shop Succulents’ living succulent birdhouse kit planter is sure to be a well-loved gift. Made from natural wood and supplied with succulents to plant atop for a green roof , this birdhouse will certainly make your partner smile. Cork yoga mats Yoloha cork yoga mats are comfortable, biodegradeable and recyclable. They also have a great non-slip grip, and cork is naturally antibacterial. With a Yoloha cork yoga mat, your partner can better their personal health and wellness and that of the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock, Repast Supply , JOCO , Jana , Bureo , ReFleece , The Humble Co. and Yoloha Yoga

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

Groundbreaking new energy storage device charges up in just 20 seconds

March 2, 2018 by  
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A new aqueous storage device can be fully charged in a mere 20 seconds. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Kangwon National University scientists developed the device suited for portable electronics , with KAIST emphasizing in a statement that their device is both safe and environmentally friendly. Aqueous storage devices are less flammable than today’s lithium batteries , and could be cheaper too, according to ScienceAlert , but limitations have held scientists back. Cells comprising a battery transfer electrons between two materials, but aqueous solutions limit voltage range between the points, according to ScienceAlert. But scientists at institutions in South Korea , according to KAIST, “came up with new structures and materials to facilitate rapid speed in energy exchange on the surfaces of the electrodes and minimize the energy loss between the two electrodes.” They described their strategy for high-performance aqueous hybrid capacitors in the journal Advanced Energy Materials in January . ScienceAlert said hybrid capacitors like this one are basically a mixture of capacitor and battery. Related: Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels Graphene to the rescue again: the scientists utilized graphene-based polymer chain materials for anodes. Graphene’s web-like structure afforded a high surface area, enabling higher capacitance, according to the institute. Metal oxide nanoparticles served as cathode materials. KAIST said, “This method realized higher energy density and faster energy exchange while minimizing energy loss.” The device they developed can charge up in 20 to 30 seconds via low-power charging systems like flexible solar cells or USB switching chargers. It boasts a power density 100 times greater than conventional aqueous batteries. And it can sustain capacity for more than 100,000 charges, according to ScienceAlert. KAIST professor Jeung Ku Kang said in the statement, “This eco-friendly technology can be easily manufactured and is highly applicable. In particular, its high capacity and high stability, compared to existing technologies, could contribute to the commercialization of aqueous capacitors.” + KAIST Via ScienceAlert Images via

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New Italian ice cream shop reflects its delicious ‘clean label’ products

March 2, 2018 by  
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Italian architecture firm NINE Associati designed this stunning ice cream shop in the Italian village of Isola del Liri to reflect the company’s commitment to serving “clean label” products. Started by the Masci family in 1989, ZERO-E serves up traditional Italian gelato made with zero preservatives. The company’s commitment to serving all-natural ice cream inspired the architects to create an elegant, breezy shop with bespoke furnishings made by local Italian artisans . Located in the small town of Isola del Liri, about 100 km south of Rome, ZERO-E stands out for its commitment to serving “clean label” ice cream . It’s the first shop of its kind in the area, and it’s a breath of fresh air – both in terms of its product and its design. Related: Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie With just 38 square meters to work with, the architects wanted to leave the interior open and uncluttered. They developed a 3-point strategy that optimized the space, provided tailor-made furniture, and created flexible areas that can adapt to new uses in the future. The shop’s walls are painted a light blue hue, and the atmosphere is clean and vibrant. Subtle graphics add a bit of flair to the space – from the tiny bathroom signs to the ice cream menu and ingredients listed on the walls. In addition to designing the shop, NINE Associati also provided branding for the company. + NINE Associati Photography via Alessandro Zompanti

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New Italian ice cream shop reflects its delicious ‘clean label’ products

Will the Environment Medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea?

February 9, 2018 by  
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For the Winter Olympics, South Korea is rocking an array of … The post Will the Environment Medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Will the Environment Medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea?

Elevated bamboo peace bridge for the Korean Demilitarized Zone unveiled by Shigeru Ban and Jae-Eun Choi

January 2, 2018 by  
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South Korean artist Jae-Eun Choi is teaming up with prolific architect Shigeru Ban to bridge a peaceful relationship between the two enemy nations of the Korean peninsula. The artist and architect propose to install a garden-lined bamboo bridge called “Dreaming of Earth” within the Korean DMZ area, which has grown into a unique wildlife sanctuary over the decades of tension between the two countries. The ambitious project includes an elevated  bamboo walkway with various meditation pavilions that would span roughly eight miles through the two warring countries. On a mission to create common peaceful zone that would sit strategically between the two enemy nations, Jae-Eun Choi and Shigeru Ban unveiled the design behind Dreaming of Earth at the 2016 Venice Biennale. The bridge would comprise a small, peaceful gesture within the 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide DMZ zone that separates the two countries. The area has been a no-man’s land of sorts for more than half a century and as such, has naturally converted into a beautiful wildlife sanctuary where native plants and animals live in harmony. Related: 10 groundbreaking designs by Shigeru Ban that changed our ideas about architecture Choi’s project envisions a long curving bridge that would sit off the ground to protect visitors from DMZ landmine. A bamboo tower  with an internal winding staircase would lead up to a viewing platform to allow visitors to take in the spectacular surrounding nature. At every kilometer, a different open-air “Jung Ja” meditation pavilion would invite guests to enjoy the peaceful serenity of the area. Each pavilion would be designed by a different designer, including Danish artist Olafur Eliasson , Sebastian Behmann, Bijoy Jain, Seung H-sang, Minsuk Cho, and artists like Lee Ufan and Lee Bul, Tadashi Kawamata, + Shigeru Ban + Jae-Eun Choi Via LA times Images via Shigeru Ban and WikiCommons

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Elevated bamboo peace bridge for the Korean Demilitarized Zone unveiled by Shigeru Ban and Jae-Eun Choi

South Korea’s President adopts rescue puppy, saving it from the dog meat trade

August 7, 2017 by  
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For the first time in South Korea’s history, a rescue pup will serve as the country’s “first dog.” The country’s president, Moon Jae-In, adopted a canine named Tory on Wednesday, July 26. The 4-year-old mixed breed was pulled from a dog meat farm by the group Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) two years ago, but has had trouble being adopted due to superstitions against his dark coat. Fortunately, he has finally found a forever home with none other than South Korea’s President. The news was published on the Facebook page of the President’s official residence, the Blue House. Now a part of the family, Tory will live a life of luxury along with Moon’s 10-year-old Pungsan dog Maru and a rescued shelter cat named Jjing-jjing. Animal rights activists are applauding Moon Jae-In for setting a positive example in South Korea , where animal abandonments are quite common. In 2015, roughly 800,000 animals were abandoned – and that number was closer to one million animals in 2010. Related: 10,000 dogs and cats to be slaughtered for the Yulin Dog Meat Festival Additionally, it is not uncommon for neglected canines to end up in the dog meat trade. This is because, in some parts of South Korea, dog meat is considered to be a delicacy. In fact, old beliefs hold that if prepared correctly, dog meat can have special medicinal properties. There are no rules or regulations limiting the farming of consumption of dogs in the country, which means that around 17,000 dog meat farms exist . At those locations, between 2.5 and 10 million dogs are killed every year. Tory was adopted during the peak of “Bok nal,” an annual festivity when the majority of dog meat is consumed. Aware of this reality, Moon Jae-In pledged early 2017 to invest in animal welfare by building playgrounds for pets and feeding facilities for stray cats . The politician also pledged to make South Korea better for both humans and animals, though he did not outright declare he would end the controversial dog meat trade. Still, progress has been made by the notable public figure adopting a dog that might have ended up on someone’s dinner plate. Korean K9 Rescue is an organization in the U.S. that rehouse dogs rescued from the meat trade. Director Gina Boehler said: “President Moon Jae-In is very aware of the campaigns around the world to ban the dog meat trade in Korea. We believe he will push for change and, in time, it will become illegal to raise dogs for consumption in Korea. He has the power to do it.” She added, “I hope that President Moon Jae-In’s adoption of Tory sends a loud message to South Koreans that all dogs are pet dogs. We hope this will be a catalyst for a change in mindset, values and compassion and extends to all dogs — even ‘meat dogs’ or strays.” Via BBC , Yonhap News Images via CARE , Cheong Wa Dae Handout

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South Korea’s President adopts rescue puppy, saving it from the dog meat trade

Living green bridge keeps wildlife safe from a busy highway

June 28, 2017 by  
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This stunning green bridge creates a natural connection between two mountain peaks near Seoul in Korea . Blending seamlessly into its surroundings, the bridge provides safe passage for wild animals and references the traditional Korean garden pavilion. The sides of the undulating structure simulate an organic mountainside path, while the center provides a more linear experience for humans. The bridge acts as an extension of two existing mountain slopes separated by a busy highway. It is positioned at an optimal altitude in order to create a safe separation for traffic and wildlife. Related: Living Growing Root Bridges Are 100% Natural Architecture The architectural language of the structure reminds of the rhythmic nature of the traditional Korean garden pavilions which were used as a way of establishing a stronger connection with nature. The central core of the bridge forms a straight path for humans, while the suspended segments on its sides create a gently undulating slope used by animals. Offering an experience similar to that of walking on a side of a mountain, the gradually opens up toward expansive vistas of Seoul and the north. The structure, designed by team KILD –architects Ivane Ksnelashvili , Petras Išora and Ona Lozuraityt? – received first prize at the Yang Jagogae Eco-Bridge Design Competition. + Ivane Ksnelashvili + Petras Išora + Ona Lozuraityt?

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