"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

September 24, 2018 by  
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Playful in its design and highly functional, SunMade Cheese features a charger for flashlights, lighters, radios and even cellphones powered by mere sunlight. The device was developed by YOLK, the solar company applauded for its Kickstarter project ‘Solar Paper’ in 2015 that has sold millions of dollars worth of units worldwide. This time, it seems whimsy has struck the cutting-edge solar tech firm, which decided to express its love of cheese in this new project. Continuing its sun-charged aspirations, the group has debuted quirky, cheese-plate-shaped solar panels and cheese-shaped, solar-powered accessories with a meaningful mission to boot. YOLK is eager to attract current generations to solar energy , making it easy to incorporate the technology in their daily routines. The group also hopes to improve energy infrastructure and conservation in developing nations as well as put an end to child labor, instead empowering families to send children to school. Rather than tackling these issues separately (as is common), YOLK decided to put its creativity to the test and develop the Solar Cow in conjunction with the new cheese chargers. The Solar Cow systems are much larger solar energy generators built with a portion of the revenue that YOLK receives from SunMade Cheese. The company is deploying the conductive cows in remote areas of East Africa that are burdened by poor energy infrastructure. Related: Striking, solar-powered LA roundabout manages stormwater runoff with art As many as one in every five children are prevented from attending school in East Africa. Families rely on child labor to supplement the household income. Besides providing power to local schools , the Solar Cow will provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school instead of sending them off to work. In the mornings, students are able to attach batteries to the “cow’s udders” for charging and take them home at night with a full supply of free, clean energy. “The SunMade Cheese project is more about enjoying solar power and promoting education for solar technology, but the Solar Cow is really a lifeline for people,” YOLK CEO Sen Chang explained. “They are two projects for two different perspectives, but combined in one initiative.” Families in rural areas commonly travel around four to six hours in order to reach a charging station to juice up their cellphones. The mobile phones are a necessity, because they facilitate communication to the rest of the world and a means to make payments and receive income. The cost of this process is astounding, with the average family spending approximately 10-20 percent of their total monthly earnings to simply charge their cellular devices an average of 10-12 times per month. The SunMade Cheese charger is the perfect accessory to promote an environmentally friendly lifestyle at home while assisting YOLK’s efforts to help communities abroad. Stressing creativity and efficiency, the award-winning innovators deserve to bask in the sunlight for their life-changing technological designs . No doubt, many will join them — cheese plate in hand! + YOLK Images via YOLK

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"Cheesy" solar charger kit empowers students in East Africa

UK’s Co-op to ditch single-use plastic bags for biodegradable bags

September 24, 2018 by  
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A popular supermarket chain in the U.K. is taking a step toward bettering the environment by putting a stop to plastic waste . Co-op recently announced plans to use compostable shopping bags, which double as biodegradable bags for food waste, in all of its stores. The new bags will replace the old single-use plastic bags. Co-op is introducing the eco-friendly bags over the next few weeks. Stores in England, Wales and Scotland will receive the bags first, followed by outlets across the rest of the U.K. Related: Kroger plans plastic bag phase-out by 2025 The chain has tested other versions of the bags since 2014 and is rolling them out in locations where local food waste companies can accept them. The company estimates that the new bags will save around 60 million plastic bags from ending up in landfills. The biodegradable bags are part of Co-op’s larger strategy to lessen its impact on the environment. This includes launching initiatives to tackle healthy eating, food waste and energy savings. The company plans to completely phase out plastic bags over the next five years and stop selling black plastic — which is difficult to recycle — altogether. Co-op hopes to be plastic free by 2023 and plans on using at least 50 percent recycled plastic in other products, such as pots, trays and bottles. Co-op is not the only supermarket in the U.K. that is removing plastic from its stores. This past week, Lidl U.K. announced plans to stop using plastic trays for fruit and vegetables by the end of September. The company also pledged to ditch plastic from its meat sections by Summer 2019. Asda also announced that it is halfway through with its plastic reduction goal for the year, while Waitrose has vowed to stop using plastic for loose veggies and fruit by Spring 2019. + Co-op Via The Guardian Image via Co-op

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These Australian tiny cabins are designed to help us disconnect

September 10, 2018 by  
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We all need a little digital detox once in a while, and these beautiful off-grid cabins are the ideal answer to getting away from it all. Scattered around South Australia’s most breathtaking landscapes, the CABN s are completely self-sustainable and eco-friendly tiny cabins that are designed to offer a serenity-focused retreat. The first CABN, named “Jude” after the founder’s mother, is located in a remote area in Adelaide Hills , just under an hour drive from Adelaide. Surrounded by 180 acres of sprawling natural grassland, guests will be just steps away from walking trails, creeks, dams and stunning scenery. Related: This off-grid, lunar lander-inspired tiny home is out of this world The tiny cabins are designed to offer guests a place where they can truly reconnect with nature. Although the cabins are completely off-grid, they don’t sacrifice comfort. Inspired by Scandinavian design, the compact structures are made out of natural timber . Inside, the minimalist interiors are geared toward relaxation. The tiny retreats’ front walls are almost entirely glazed, flooding the living space with natural light. Jude sleeps two guests in a king-sized bed, and the bathroom comes with an indoor shower and composting toilet . Guests will enjoy a kitchen equipped with all of the basic necessities. To completely relax, the CABN rules strictly forbid ironing of any sort. According to CABN creator Michael Lamprell, the inspiration for the retreat came from a personal experience while he was studying both minimalism and tiny home design . “For someone that has lived and worked within the excesses of consumerism, the concept of minimalism was a revelation,” Lamprell said. “I was at a point where stress and anxiety were affecting all areas of my life — something had to change. At the same time, I was introduced to the concept of tiny homes, and the opportunity to create stunning cabins in unique locations, allowing you to switch off your mobile phone and truly relax. Set in isolated spots, the aim is to help the terminally busy disconnect and recharge.” + CABN Via ArchDaily Images via CABN

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These Australian tiny cabins are designed to help us disconnect

Futuristic library pops up in an ancient Chinese city

July 17, 2018 by  
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Incredible, futuristic-looking libraries have been taking root across China , including in one of the country’s most famous ancient cities, Xi’an. Once the capital for thirteen dynasties, the Shaanxi Province city is now home to the curvaceous, all-white Zhongshu bookstore, which has a design that looks like something straight out of a science-fiction film. Crafted by Shanghai-based Wutopia Lab , the bookstore was constructed from 300 tons of steel and 30,000 meters of light strips. Located on the fourth floor of a commercial center, the Zhongshu bookstore welcomes visitors with a “glittering entrance” that connects the adjacent cinema to an all-white space with swooping curvilinear lines that draw the eye up towards the ceiling and over to a sinuous staircase. The pillar-free interior is supported with a hidden steel frame tucked behind the foundation. Books are set on over 3,000 meters of steel-plated curved bookshelves that appear to float thanks to their thin, cantilevered profiles just five millimeters thick. “I hope my architectural practices reiterate our everyday life through immense imaginations and dramatic artistic expressions,” explains the firm in a project statement. “I also hope that it transforms reality into a ‘magic reality’ and creates an illusion that uncovers bits of truths in our life. The design and construction of Zhongshu Bookstore which lasted 600 days is not only the transcendence of Zhongshu Bookstore itself, but also represents the great urban revival that Xi’an is currently experiencing.” Related: China’s new futuristic library is unlike any we’ve seen before The sinuous forms of the Zhongshu bookstore were achieved using computer 3D modeling, while the steel-plate bookshelves were cut with CNC machines and then assembled on site. The rounded computer-aided design ensures that there are no sharp corners in the store, which the architects liken to a cloud-like environment. The airy and bright atmosphere is reinforced with translucent materials including glass surfaces and translucent acrylic. + Wutopia Lab Images by CreatAR Images

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Futuristic library pops up in an ancient Chinese city

This yurt-inspired modern cabin is a holiday getaway in Slovakia

July 17, 2018 by  
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Bratislava-based architect Peter Jurkovi? of  JRKVC has designed a contemporary cabin by the lake that takes inspiration from traditional yurts . Created for a young married couple who own a creative studio in Bratislava, the holiday retreat — called ‘Attila’ as a nod to the nomadic tribes that used yurts in Central Asia — is located in the village of Vojka nad Dunajom, approximately 12 miles away from Slovakia’s capital city. In addition to serving as a cozy getaway, Attila also includes a meeting space where the couple can get together with clients. Set on the north bank of the Voj?ian Lake, the 775-square-foot Attila was designed to take up no more than 20 percent of the site area, which was left largely in its natural condition. A circular space forms the heart of the cabin and serves as the primary living and meeting area. Like a yurt, the round tent-like room is punctuated by a large round skylight and finished in light-colored natural materials to give it a bright and airy appearance. A large rectangular volume encloses the circular space, around which two bedrooms, a bathroom, storage and a kitchen have been inserted. The cabin can comfortably accommodate up to four people. The home is oriented toward the south to face the lake and features a 161-square-foot covered terrace . The exterior is wrapped in standard black plastic film, typically used for insulation, as well as timber lattice panels that let in light while providing some shade from the sun. Related: Yurt-inspired visitor’s center in China blends into its exceptional surroundings To create a modern and minimalist interior, the architects used light-colored timber for the walls, ceiling, flooring and furnishings. The small kitchen and bunk beds — on the right and left sides of the house upon entering — are hidden behind wooden folding doors. Flush with natural light, the yurt-like living space is anchored by a black wood-burning stove and a low round table surrounded by squat chairs. Built-in wall seating helps minimize visual clutter. The bedroom and the bathroom are set back from the main living space with a curved corridor, which obscures the rooms from view. + JRKVC Via Wallpaper Images via Peter Jurkovi?

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

April 16, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought the world was one raging garbage fire , along comes this amazing stork to brighten the day. For the past 16 years, without fail, one male stork has flown 8,700 miles to be with his mate who can no longer fly after being shot by poachers. Klepetan the stork travels from his winter nest in South Africa to his mate’s Malena’s home in Croatia every single March where they reunite and raise a new brood. Malena was injured by a gunshot in 1993, but a local hero took her home after finding her by a lake and nursed her back to health. “If I had left her in the pond foxes would have eaten her. But I changed her fate, so now I’m responsible for her life,” said Stjepan Vokic, the man who cares for Malena. Now, although she can’t migrate any longer, she has a pretty sweet life. Vokic has built an “improvised Africa” where she can stay warm, and he cares for her by bathing her, catching her fish in the river and making sure her feet are moisturized. He even watches stork documentaries with her so she won’t get lonely, and takes her fishing. Related: This friendly fish has visited a Japanese diver for 25 years Klepetan arrives every March as spring begins in Croatia after traveling for a month from his winter home. Every spring, Vokic builds a new nest on his roof so that when Klepetan arrives, the couple can mate, and so far, they’ve had 62 chicks together. In the fall, Klepetan migrates back to South Africa with his new little family, and Malena stays behind with her human friend. Vokic says that the couple struggles to say goodbye every year, and Malena hides and stops eating when she knows Klepetan is about to go. Via Oddity Central Images via HRT

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For 16 years, this stork has flown 8,700 miles to return to his one true love

Elon Musk’s Boring Company to sell life-size ‘LEGO-like’ bricks dug from the earth

March 27, 2018 by  
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People signed up in droves to buy hats and flamethrowers from The Boring Company , and founder Elon Musk isn’t stopping there. He just announced his latest idea on Twitter : kits of massive interlocking bricks made from tunneling rock . The first kit will be inspired by ancient Egypt — think pyramids or a Sphinx. New Boring Company merch coming soon. Lifesize LEGO-like interlocking bricks made from tunneling rock that you can use to create sculptures & buildings. Rated for California seismic loads, so super strong, but bored in the middle, like an aircraft wing spar, so not heavy. — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2018 LEGO -like bricks could be the next merchandise out of The Boring Company . Musk said the life-size building materials would be strong enough to stand up to a California earthquake, but not heavy, as they’ll be “bored in the middle.” Ever wanted a Temple of Horus in your backyard? Maybe The Boring Company’s kits could make that possible. First kit set will be ancient Egypt — pyramids, Sphinx, temple of Horus, etc — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2018 Related: You can now buy your own Elon Musk ‘Boring Company’ flamethrower Musk didn’t specify the dimensions of the bricks or structures created with the kits on Twitter. But when asked if these bricks could be utilized for affordable housing , he said the bricks feature “a precise surface finish” and two people could erect a small house’s outer walls in around one day with the materials. When asked about environmental impact, Musk said , “Uhh, it’s literally made of rock.” Further details are still thin — like price or when the kits might be available for purchase — but Musk did say they plan to ship them around the world. And they said I’d never be a rock star … — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 27, 2018 The Verge pointed out The Boring Company has been considering what do to with excavated dirt for a while — the company’s Frequently Asked Questions page said they are “investigating technologies that will recycle the earth into useful bricks to be used to build structures.” They even cited the pyramids as inspiration. Musk has raked in millions of dollars from Boring Company merchandise already. If the flamethrowers and hats were any indication, he could sell thousands of these kit sets as well. + Elon Musk Twitter Via The Verge Images via The Boring Company and Wikimedia Commons

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company to sell life-size ‘LEGO-like’ bricks dug from the earth

Shell oil just unveiled a plan to move the world away from fossil fuels

March 27, 2018 by  
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Royal Dutch Shell just laid out a proposal to move us away from its own product. The company’s Sky Scenario is a plan to help the world meet the goals set forth in the Paris climate agreement . The plan would shift people away from oil and towards hydrogen and electric transportation in order to keep global warming under the 2 degree limit that most scientists think is the tipping point for climate change . As weird as it is for an oil company to suggest moving away from fossil fuels, Shell is putting its money where its mouth is. Last October, the company purchased an electric car charging company, a major natural gas company, and it’s working on carbon capture and storage technology through its Quest and Gorgon projects. Related: BP and Shell prepare for catastrophic climate change Shell’s Sky scenario details a way in which the world can shift from oil to other technologies by 2070. The proposal suggests addressing growing global energy needs by moving to clean electricity like solar and wind, replacing gas guzzlers with electric vehicles – particularly semi-trucks – and focusing on fuels like biofuel and hydrogen. “The relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly incentivize investment and innovation,” the company said. Via The Washington Post Images via Shell and Deposit Photos

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20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

March 22, 2018 by  
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A monumental new study demonstrates that one-fifth of the American population is responsible for nearly half of all food-based emissions. Popsci reports that people who eat a lot of animal protein, especially beef, account for a larger share of greenhouse gas emissions — although, author Sara Chodosh also illustrates the extreme complexity behind the study’s potentially groundbreaking conclusions. Read on for a closer look. Published in Environmental Research Letters specifically sought to understand how diet and associated emissions varies among the American population. Martin Heller, an engineer at the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and study contributor, told Popsci it was surprising to realize just how varied they are. “I don’t think any of us really had a strong sense of how distributed the greenhouse gas emissions would be,” he says. “That was perhaps the most striking result.” Getting to the meat of the matter (sorry, I couldn’t resist) involved consulting several different databases and picking apart the life-cycle analysis of every morsel. Chodosh writes : “The NHANES survey results can tell you what a broad spectrum of American plates look like on any given day, but tells you nothing about the environmental impact of those foods. To do that, you have to go to the Food Commodities Intake Database, run by the EPA, and figure out how much meat might be in that meat lasagna, or how many tomatoes are in a generic salad. From there, you have to link the quantities of each type of food to the emissions associated with producing it.” Related: Garlic may be the key to slashing methane emissions from cows When evaluating the emissions of a single tomato, it was necessary to know how much fertilizer was used in its production, and then how much fuel was used to transport that tomato. With poultry, the researchers had to also consider feed production, and when analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with eating beef, they had to calculate the amount of methane released by cow burps. I urge you to head over to Popsci to read the full details , because this short synthesis doesn’t do their reporting justice, but here’s the bottom line that we found so interesting: What next? Now that we know one-fifth of the American population is producing nearly half of food-based emissions — which in their turn are helping to melt glaciers and unleash devastating wildfires, not to mention the numerous adverse health hazards attributed to climate change — what do we do with that information? Heller tells Popsci, “Clearly we’ve not been very good at encouraging people to shift their diets for their own health. Relative to what our recommended healthy diet is, Americans do pretty poorly,” he says, “But I’ve started to try to think about it as the secondhand smoke of diet choice.” Fascinating. If you understood that your dietary choices directly hurt your neighbor, would you make a switch? + Environmental Research Letters Via Popsci Images via DepositPhotos 1 , 2

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20% of US population produces 46% of food-based emissions

New book reveals Cecil the lion suffered for at least 10 hours before dying

March 7, 2018 by  
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When Cecil the lion was killed by a game hunter in 2015 , people around the world were outraged. But despite the widespread attention to the situation, questions still lingered about what exactly took place. A new book on Cecil’s death finally gives us some answers, revealing that the lion likely suffered for 10 – 12 hours before being shot a second time, which ended his life. Cecil was shot with an arrow from a compound bow by dentist Walter J. Palmer from Minnesota. At the time, media outlets reported that the lion was in agony from a thoracic injury for 40 hours. While that seems to not be the case, the book says that “Cecil suffered incredible cruelty for at least 10 hours, severely wounded and slowly dying.” The arrow wound missed vital organs and arteries, incapacitating the lion but not killing him. The lion was finally relieved of his torture when the hunters located him and shot him with a second arrow. Related: Cecil the lion’s son shot and killed by trophy hunter Using data from the lion’s GPS collar and details from interviews with game staff, researchers and the local community, the book also confirms that the lion was lured out of the park in order to avoid regulations, a detail that has been disputed by the hunters. You can read all the details about Cecil’s tragic death in the book Lion Hearted: The Life and Death of Cecil and the Future of Africa’s Iconic Cats , which will be released on April 10. Via CNN Images via Flickr , Simon & Schuster and Flickr

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