Cameroon student nonprofit recycles plastic bottles into boats

August 10, 2017 by  
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Humanity has a plastic bottle addiction, purchasing one million a minute , and many bottles wind up not in recycling bins but in our oceans. Cameroon -based nonprofit Madiba & Nature is pioneering a creative use for all those polluting bottles: boats . They’re fabricating floating canoe-shaped crafts out of collected empties in an effort to prompt people to think differently about how they consume and dispose of plastic bottles. A group of students is transforming plastic trash into boats. They aim to promote a circular economy in Africa ; according to their website: “…we want to help change people’s attitudes and bad habits on the management of plastic waste that degrades sensitive ecosystems.” One Green Planet reports Cameroonian Essome Ismael invented the boats. Related: The world’s population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute Madiba & Nature volunteers have gathered to pick up thousands of plastic bottles near Cameroon’s largest city, Douala, to use those bottles for what they call ecological canoes. The boats could help not just the environment , but the local community as well. In a video, Ismael said there’s a great need for fishing boats in his area, and the plastic bottle boats could meet that need. Local fisherman Emmanuel Japa said at first they thought the plastic bottle boats were a joke, but it turns out the crafts are actually strong and seaworthy. Ismael also said plastic bottles clogging their waterways have led to flooding in the local area. The boats are just the beginning. Madiba & Nature’s website says in around a year of work, they’ve started a program for students and engineers to learn more about green business , and have developed an environmental awareness and education program. They’ve also helped develop a local waste management system and have supported other groups laboring to protect the environment. Their website also says they aim to research how to use recycled plastic in building or paving systems. + Madiba & Nature Via One Green Planet Images via Madiba & Nature Facebook

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Cameroon student nonprofit recycles plastic bottles into boats

Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva

August 10, 2017 by  
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In addition to aiding digestion, it turns out saliva can also power batteries. Researchers at Binghamton University discovered this while inventing a small, paper-based battery that generates energy when mixed with a drop of saliva. The batteries, which are more like tiny microbial fuel cells, are inexpensive to make and could be used in natural disasters and remote settings where on-demand power is hard (if not impossible) to come by. As a result, access to medical care and screenings in rural settings could improve. Binghamton University Electrical and Computer Science Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi spent the past five years developing the micro-power sources. His ultimate goal was to find a way to power medical diagnostic tests in poverty-stricken regions; finally, he succeeded at developing paper-based bacteria -powered batteries “On-demand micro-power generation is required especially for point-of-care diagnostic applications in developing countries,” said Choi. “Typically, those applications require only several tens of microwatt-level power for several minutes, but commercial batteries or other energy harvesting technologies are too expensive and over-qualified. Also, they pose environmental pollution issues.” Related: Indian startup pioneers new battery swapping system for electric buses The batteries contain freeze-dried exoelectrogenic cells which generate power when saliva is added. Astonishingly, with just one drop of spit, the paper batteries can produce enough power for low-power biological sensors in just a matter of minutes. Eureka Alert reports that a benefit of freeze drying the cells is that they can be stored for a long time before use. This means they can be stocked in medical clinics around the world. An additional perk is that the required biological fluid (saliva) can be easily obtained anywhere, anytime. At present, the battery can only produce a few microwatts of power per square centimeter. However, Choi and his research assistant, Maedeh Mohammadifar, are working on boosting the output. In the future, the team hopes to make the paper batteries more robust so they can sustain devices other than LED lights when connected in a series. The paper, “A Papertronic, On-Demand and Disposable Biobattery: Saliva-Activated Electricity Generation from Lyophilized Exoelectrogens Preinoculated on Paper,” was published in Advanced Materials Technologies. + Binghamton University Via Eureka Alert Images via  Binghamton University , Pixabay

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The Hatchery announces new $30M food incubator for ‘global culinary capital’

July 11, 2017 by  
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A food incubator planned for Chicago’s East Garfield Park could provide much-needed economic growth for a struggling community. Nearly 40 percent of households there live below the poverty level, according to the Chicago Tribune . But the $30 million facility, being built by The Hatchery , could create 150 jobs in its first year, and in five years offer 900 jobs. The organization expects to break ground on the facility later this year. The Hatchery is a non-profit food business incubator started by three Chicago organizations: Accion Chicago , IFF , and Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago . They offer financing, production space, and other resources for startup food businesses, and the new $30 million facility could help them assist even more people in the community. Related: Rooftop wheat fields elevate Chicago’s urban farming scene to exciting new heights 75 to 100 entrepreneurs will be able to start their businesses in The Hatchery’s planned space, which will be around 65,000 square feet. The City of Chicago is providing around $8 million for the venture, largely through tax increment financing, and large food companies like Kellogg Company and Conagra Foods have also pitched in undisclosed amounts. Shared kitchen spaces will help businesses get on their feet, and as they grow they’ll be able to rent one of the 56 private production spaces. Event spaces, meeting rooms, and food storage will also be found inside The Hatchery, where entrepreneurs will be able to receive coaching and training. Accion Chicago will relocate their headquarters to the new facility. Locals will be able to obtain job training or go to food classes there. The space will also host a neighborhood market. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the project in a press release, saying, “Chicago is the global culinary capital and The Hatchery will give our local entrepreneurs access to food and beverage companies that operate across the world.” Construction is slated to begin in October or November of this year, and the space could open in 2018. + The Hatchery Chicago Via the Chicago Tribune Images via The Hatchery Chicago Twitter and The Hatchery Chicago Facebook

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The Netherlands is converting prisons into homes for refugees

June 22, 2017 by  
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Unlike the United States of America, the prison population and crime rate in the Netherlands has been steadily decreasing for years. As a result, the country’s government is repurposing correctional facilities into housing for refugees who are waiting to be granted asylum status — a process that usually takes a minimum of six months. Not only will the refugees not be required to work, they will be supplied with educational materials to learn Dutch, ride bicycles and build connections within the local community. After the number of migrants exceeded 50,000 in one year alone in the Netherlands, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) proposed a solution for the overflow of refugees: transform empty prisons into temporary housing for families and individuals escaping war. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and photographer Muhammed Muheisen captured the scoop by dedicating the past two years to photographing the refugee crisis as people traversed across continents. After hearing rumors that penitentiaries were being converted to house migrants in the Netherlands, his interest was piqued. He told National Geographic , “I didn’t exactly understand. I thought they feel like they are in prisons.” Related: Green roof with bee hotel tops energy-neutral fair trade building in the Netherlands After waiting six months to get permission to visit the prison and take photos, Muheisen spent 40 days touring three different facilities, meeting residents and documenting their lives. “We’re talking about dozens of nationalities,” he said. “Dozens. The whole world is under this dome.” The refugees will be able to live in the centers for a minimum of six months and are free to come and go as they please. Additionally, they are supplied with resources needed to acclimate to the new country, learn Dutch and even ride bicycles. According to one Syrian man, the prison gives him hope for his future. The refugee told Muheisen, “If a country has no prisoners to put in jail, it means this is the safest country that I want to be living in.” Via National Geographic Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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The Netherlands is converting prisons into homes for refugees

Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

June 22, 2017 by  
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Sweden just took a huge step towards becoming even greener than they already are. A new law passed by the country’s parliament will slash carbon emissions all the way down to zero by 2045. The move makes Sweden the first country to upgrade its carbon goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement . A cross-party committee prepared the law, which then passed with an overwhelming majority, bringing the goal to become carbon neutral from 2050 down to 2045, and puting in place an independent Climate Policy Council. The law calls for an action plan that will be updated every four years. Related: Norway moves up zero emissions target to 2030 According to New Scientist, Sweden already obtains 83 percent of its electricity from hydropower and nuclear energy . They met a goal to obtain 50 percent of energy from renewables eight years before their target. They’ll work to meet this new carbon neutral objective in part by focusing on transportation , such as through increasing use of vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels . Sweden aims to slash domestic emissions by a minimum of 85 percent. And they’ll offset any other emissions by planting trees or investing in sustainable projects in other countries. Femke de Jong, European Union Policy Director at Carbon Market Watch , said Sweden has a high chance of success, and other countries in Europe could follow suit. “With the Trump decision to get out of the Paris Agreement, Europe is more united than ever and wants to show leadership to the world,” de Jong said. Public resistance can be an obstacle to cutting emissions, but according to New Scientist in Sweden there’s an unusually high amount of support for environmentally friendly policies. But de Jong warned the country must also show leadership in forests, not simply emissions. They were recently accused along with France, Finland, and Austria of attempting to weaken rules to obscure emissions from burning wood and deforestation . Via New Scientist Images via Håkan Dahlström on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

June 22, 2017 by  
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We humans have done a pretty good job of trashing the Earth all by ourselves, but we don’t often stop to consider external threats – like asteroids . A 1908 asteroid explosion over Tunguska, Siberia ravaged 800 square miles, and Queen’s University Belfast astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons said another asteroid collision is simply a matter of time, which could have devastating consequences if we remain unprepared. He said most of us don’t think about asteroids as a threat to our existence. We now remember the day of the 1908 asteroid strike as Asteroid Day . It’s June 30, and Fitzsimmons is joining other experts like physicist Brian Cox and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott to call attention to the threat. Fitzsimmons says it’s not a matter of if an asteroid will impact the Earth, but when. He said a strike like the Tunguska one today could demolish a mayor city – and a larger asteroid strike could be even more devastating. Related: NASA rolls out new asteroid detection program to defend Earth from destructive meteors Fitzsimmons said in a statement, “Astronomers find Near-Earth Asteroids every day and most are harmless. But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them.” He said experts have gotten much better about detecting Near-Earth Asteroids, and have found more than 1,800 objects that could be potentially hazardous. But there are more out there – and we need to be prepared. Fitzsimmons is part of a European Research Council-funded project, NEOshield-2, whose mission is to figure out how to deflect the hazardous asteroids. Asteroid Day events will be live streamed here . There will be conversations with space agencies like NASA and a Neil deGrasse Tyson-narrated video series on scientists laboring to protect Earth from asteroids, to name a few. The organization says it will be the first 24-hour live broadcast about space ever. Via Queen’s University Belfast Images via Asteroid Day

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Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when

German coal mine set to become "giant battery" for storing renewable energy

March 21, 2017 by  
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A German coal mine is about to become a massive battery for storing electricity from renewable energy sources. The Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia that provided coal power to German industry since it opened in 1974 will soon be turned into a 200-megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir. When completed, the nearly 2,000-foot-deep mine that is set to close in 2018 will essentially act as a giant battery that can store enough power for 400,000 homes. That’s a huge backup that’s much needed in one of the most progressive solar nations in the world. This “giant battery” stores energy by continually pumping water between two chambers, an upper and a lower connected via pipes with turbines. During periods of high electricity demand, power is produced by releasing the stored water from the upper chamber through the turbines and into the lower chamber. When demand decreases, pumps refill the upper chamber using the cheaper electricity available from the grid. Plants such as this tend to have a huge efficiency of about 80 percent, while also balancing the load in a larger power system. Related: Groundbreaking technology affordably captures C02 from fossil fuel plants As Bloomberg notes, creating this energy storage facility is a win, win for Germany—as it not only provides a much-needed place to store all that power it’s now producing through renewable energy initiatives , but it will also give a boost to the local economy in nearby Bottrop by providing jobs for many of the miners who would otherwise be out of work when the coal mine is shuttered next year. Via Bloomberg Images via Goseteufel , Wikimedia Commons and University of Duisburg-Essen

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EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

March 21, 2017 by  
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Spiky ETFE roofs  top this airy forest resort and spa in the historic region of Kurzeme, Latvia. 3GATTI Architecture Studio and OFL Architecture teamed up to design the Pinecones Resort using sustainable construction techniques and prefabrication , resulting in a fairytale-like woodland setting in harmony with its natural surroundings. The resort comprises cone-shaped units with inflatable roofs made from 100 percent recyclable ETFE that has a minimal carbon footprint . Lightweight and flexible, this material offers the possibility of creating dynamic building forms. The roofs will be inflated by a recyclable SPF sprayed eco foam with superior insulation and structural qualities. The laminated lightweight frames, made from locally-sourced wood, support the roof membrane and allows it to withstand snow loads. Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over The resort will focus on providing Blue Clay treatments based on organic and naturally abundant material. Different programs will be distributed across the site, with wooden bridges connecting the units housing winter tubs, saunas, therapy rooms and dining areas. In addition to the aforementioned sustainable features, the resort will also include a water filtration system, geothermal loops, and solar window technologies. + 3GATTI  + OFL Architecture Via Archdaily

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

Swiss resident begins peddling jars of Alps mountain air starting at $97

March 5, 2017 by  
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Got an extra $97 lying around? With that money you can now purchase a jar of fresh mountain air from Switzerland . Resident John Green has started collecting air from the Alps and peddling it online, saying “the air in the mountains is like champagne [so] I decided I had better start selling it.” Born in London, Green says he’s resided in Switzerland for 20 years. He’s now decided to sell that fresh Swiss air from his website MountainAirFromSwitzerland.com , in three sizes. A pint costs $97, a quart $167, and a 3/4 gallon jar will run you $247. He includes a certificate of authenticity with each purchase, and captures the air in what he describes as a secret location. “Let’s just say it’s collected by a babbling mountain stream, fed by melt water from a famous glacier , near a very famous mountain,” says the website. Related: Australian entrepreneurs are selling canned fresh air to polluted China But anyone brave enough to shell out that money will also get GPS coordinates, according to the website, so they can pinpoint the location of their air on a map. Green suggests owners put the jar in the freezer first for the full effect should the owner decide to open the jar. On the website he says, “I seriously feel almost reborn every time I go to the Alps and breath the fresh air; there’s definitely something magic in that air. So get your little bit of magic right here, right now!” Green even says he’s donating 25 percent of profits to World Vision . He told The Local, a Swedish publication, “I know it’s a bit crazy but it’s a fun idea and it helps give some money to a charity that I think is deserving.” As for the price, he said he wants to make the business sustainable and must consider the costs of shipping the air worldwide. “And also don’t forget, it’s Swiss air! Everything in Switzerland is expensive.” When asked if anyone had been willing to purchase the air, he said, “It’s starting slowly, let’s put it like that!” + Mountain Air from Switzerland Via The Local Images via Wikimedia Commons and Mountain Air from Switzerland

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