Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity

April 20, 2018 by  
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2.6 billion people around the planet don’t have access to safe toilets . Not only does this impact health , but empowerment as well: women and girls “face high rates of violence when they don’t have access to safe and dignified sanitation ,” according to protein biochemist and entrepreneur Diana Yousef, CEO of change:WATER Labs . She’s working on a solution: a portable, off-grid toilet. “80 percent of disease around the world is attributable to poor sanitation,” Yousef said in a Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards YouTube video ; she’s a 2018 finalist . Indigenous groups, people living in poverty, or refugees don’t have many options to deal with an absence of proper sanitation, according to change:WATER. So they’re working on a low-cost, off-grid, compact, environmentally safe toilet able to evaporate 95 percent of sewage sans energy with the help of a simple polymer membrane. Users wouldn’t need plumbing or water to flush the toilet. Related: Ergonomically-correct ‘Wellbeing Toilet’ Helps You Poop the Right Way Cartier Women’s Initiative says that membrane acts like a sponge, “soaking up and accelerating the evaporation of liquid contents without the use of power or heat…The vapors released are pure clean water, while the dried solids left behind are safely contained inside the membrane.” This volume reduction means toilets only have to be serviced once or twice in a month. Yousef said in the video the toilet sends waste water back into nature “in its purest form” in an attempt to promote a “cycle of use and re-use in a more efficient, sustainable, low-carbon way.” Field deployment could happen later this year; Yousef has three pilot partnerships in the United States, Central America, and in the Middle East and North Africa, according to the initiative. change:WATER is up for potential funding from the Chivas Venture (you can vote for them on the Chivas website ). Yousef said funding would allow change:WATER to get working toilets to 10,000 families by 2019. + change:WATER Labs Via the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards and Chivas Venture Image courtesy of change:WATER

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Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity

The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood

April 20, 2018 by  
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One of the best things to come from the tiny home  trend is the peace of living in a quiet atmosphere – which is especially important for writers. At the request of renowned children’s author Cornelia Funke,  New Frontier Tiny Homes  created The Cornelia — which is just 24 feet in length and 8.5 feet wide. Funke’s tiny house is a serene three-in-one space that can be used as a writing studio, a guest house and a library. The Cornelia’s high vaulted ceilings provide the tiny house with plenty of vertical space. Abundant windows provide plenty of natural light and stunning views of the surrounding forest. Reclaimed barn wood covers the walls and ceilings, giving the home an inviting cabin feel. A small deck is covered with a wooden awning, creating a serene spot to enjoy the outdoors. Related: Firefighter’s self-built tiny house is an earthship on wheels The designers customized the layout of the compact space  to fit Funke’s needs. High ledges span the length of both walls to provide ample space for storing books. Minimal furnishings open up the space and keep it safe from clutter. The desk, which is located under a large window, can be folded down when not in use. A small, incredibly space-efficient kitchen is located on one end of the home and the bathroom is located in a corner of the living space. The loft, which fits a king-size bed, is accessible by a movable ladder. The efficient, modern design and lush surroundings offer plenty of inspiration for the tiny home’s creative inhabitant. + New Frontier Tiny Homes Via Apartment Therapy Images via New Frontier Tiny Homes

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The Cornelia tiny house is a peaceful writer’s studio built with reclaimed wood

24-year-old Yemeni engineer invents mini biogas plants for home use

January 17, 2018 by  
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Some villages in war-torn Yemen still don’t have electricity since the recent conflict started nearly two years ago, according to 24-year-old chemical engineering graduate Omer Badokhon speaking to Reuters . So he invented micro-scale biogas devices to transform trash into cleaner fuel , to combat indoor pollution and slash energy poverty. He was recently among the winners of the Young Champions of the Earth prize from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and polymer company Covestro , winning $15,000 he plans to use to construct 50 to 80 units. Badokhon could tackle multiple issues Yemen faces with his small biogas devices. The country has faced the biggest cholera epidemic the World Health Organization has recorded, and Badokhon connects cholera with organic waste pollution in the country – which has only worsened during the war. He said in a video organic waste is the primary reason for the cholera, but that garbage could be turned into something useful to help the country with another issue: electricity woes. Related: Off-grid village with game-changing green solutions blooms in the Middle East Badokhon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “In some villages, electricity has not been restored since the conflict began in 2015. In Mukalla City where I now live, I remember how desperate I felt trying to complete university assignments by candlelight when power shuts down for four to six hours every day.” More than three million people still cook over open flames in Yemen, according to UNEP , and Badokhon said in another video women and child die each year because of exposure to smoke. His biogas devices will be built locally with fiberglass or plastic . They “enable the rapid decomposition of domestic organic waste, thereby maximizing the amount of biogas produced,” per UNEP. And the remains of the fermentation process are useful too; Badokhon said in a video they can serve as rich liquid fertilizer . During the upcoming eight months, according to Reuters, the devices will be tested in 1,500 rural houses in Sana’a, Ibb, Aden, Hadhramaut, Shabwa, and Taiz. In addition to the Young Champions of the Earth prize money, Badokhon also received $10,000 for research from Yemeni oil company PetroMasila. Via Reuters and the United Nations Environment Program ( 1 , 2 ) Images via the United Nations Environment Program

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24-year-old Yemeni engineer invents mini biogas plants for home use

The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

November 7, 2017 by  
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Today the war-torn country of Syria officially signed the Paris Climate Agreement , leaving the United States as the only country to refuse the landmark climate deal. Though Barack Obama entered the US into the deal during his time as president, Donald Trump quickly withdrew the nation after his inauguration. The Middle East nation made the announcement in Bonn, Germany, at the COP 23 UN climate summit. Even though Syria is facing its sixth year of a brutal civil conflict, it agreed to limit its carbon emissions in an effort to prevent climate change from worsening. It’s not clear what has changed, and Syria has yet to submit its targets for cutting greenhouse gases . In December 2015, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Accord . Until last month, Nicaragua was also a holdout nation. However, that was because the Central American country did not think the deal went far enough in putting limits on emissions and helping lower-income nations adapt to an already-changing planet. One of Nicaragua’s complaints was that top polluters — like the US, EU, China, and India — were not keeping their emissions levels low enough to prevent sea levels from rising and global warming under 2 degrees Celsius — let alone the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Eventually, parties to the deal signed – as the global climate change agreement was better than none at all. Now the US is the last country to sign. In the past, President Trump said that American workers (particularly coal miners) were being put at an “economic disadvantage” by the deal. And even though the US is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world (second to China ), Trump remains committed to the idea that investing in coal — not renewable energy — is the way forward. Related: Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria “With Syria’s decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever,” Paula Caballero , director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the New York Times . “The US’s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change .” The countries that have signed the Paris Agreement now seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Via The Independent , The Verge , BBC Images via Pixabay

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The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

Hundreds of mysterious stone structures discovered near ancient volcanoes in Saudi Arabia

October 19, 2017 by  
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Professor David Kennedy of the University of Oxford just discovered hundreds of mysterious structures near ancient lava domes in Saudi Arabia. Using Google Earth , Kennedy found approximately 400 stone walls that are believed to be more than 9,000 years old. Because the structures appear similar to others found in the Middle East , they have been dubbed “gates” The mysterious gates are located in the western Harrat Khaybar region of the country. According to the Bedouin, a nomadic group of Arab people, they were the “Works of the Old Men.” While there are similarities between the newly-discovered gates and others in the country, there are notable differences, as well. For instance, the gates Kennedy discovered are larger (the longest measures more than half a kilometer, the shortest is just 13 meters) and the space between them varies. Some are “almost touching” while others are “miles apart,” reports The Independent . Kennedy told Newsweek , “It is impossible at the moment to date these gates except relatively. I have argued in the article that they are the earliest of the so-called ‘Works of the Old Men’, the stone-built structures found widely in Arabia from northern Syria to Yemen , but especially common in the lava fields.” The “Old Men” are also credited with building “kites” – stone structures archaeologists say were used to catch migratory birds . They are found on top of the gates in other areas of the Middle East, signifying possible relationship. Said the Professor of archaeology, “The works known as Kites, which are certainly animal traps, may be as old as 9,000 years before present in some cases and there is one example of a kite overlying a gate. So Gates may be up to or more than 9,000 years old, which takes one back to the Neolithic .” Related: Large organic farm in Saudi Arabia switches to solar-powered irrigation Because the gates are situated on ancient lava domes (the volcanoes remain inactive), some of the structures bear traces of lava. This could prove a sufficient method to date the mysterious phenomenon. Kennedy’s findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy . Via The Independent Images via Wiley/Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy/Douglas Kennedy , Google Earth

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Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria

August 29, 2017 by  
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As the civil war continues into its sixth year, millions of Syrians remain in the divided, war-torn country. To meet basic needs and provide young people with a healthy place to play and learn, schoolyards across the country are being reborn as vegetable gardens . At these edible playgrounds, children learn how to grow tasty, nutritious treats, like peppers, eggplants, and cabbages. Then, when the time is right, they are able to harvest and eat what they have grown. This transformative experience offers students and their families an empowering experience of caring for one’s self and others. Young people, whose bodies and minds are rapidly developing, are particularly vulnerable to food scarcity and malnutrition . “Good nutrition is a child’s first defense against common diseases and important for children to be able to lead an active and healthy life,” said Adam Yao, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) acting representative in Syria. FAO provides funding and logistical support for 17 primary schools to plant 500 square meter fruit and vegetable gardens. These gardens are being installed in both government and opposition-controlled territory, so that young people will be able to access healthy food regardless of the politics and violence that surrounds them. Another 35 schools are scheduled to receive an edible playground in the near future. Related: Food-starved Syrians are switching meat for mushrooms Many Syrians now depend on bread and food aid from relief organizations to meet their nutritional needs. This sparse diet is far from traditional Syrian cuisine, which includes dishes such as hummus, minced lamb with spices and pine nuts, vibrant salads, stuffed cabbage leaves, and vegetable stews. These dishes are more are well served by the edible schoolyards , which provide some of the rich vegetables that have become scarce during the civil war. Further investments in agriculture could help to secure the population for years to come. “ Agriculture has become a hope for (many) because they can grow their own food and survive – even in the besieged areas,” said Yao. The seeds planted in the minds of these young children may someday yield a brighter, healthier Syria at peace. Via Reuters Foundation, FAO Lead image via FAO / Zaki Khozam , eggplants via Deposit Photos , others via Celine Nadeau/Flickr and DFID/Flickr

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Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria

Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

August 17, 2017 by  
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Meeting even basic needs in Gaza can be a challenge for the nearly 2 million people that live in the territory’s 141 square miles. Under  Israeli blockade, which prevents vital supplies from reaching Gaza and inhibits international trade, the Palestinians living there rely on resilience and innovation to survive with the resources they have. Squeezed out of arable land, many Gaza residents are farming upwards, on the rooftops of the dense urban Mediterranean territory. Rooftop farming is fairly new in Gaza. Starting in 2010, an urban farming project by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system, in which fish provide both edible protein and fertilizer for vegetables with roots growing into water, without soil. This initial design was adapted by others to suit their available resources and needs. The current model, designed and built by Palestinians, involves recycled plastic and wood being used to create garden beds, which are then planted with seeds from local farmers. Related: Gaza man’s DIY solar desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day The growing rooftop farming scene in Gaza is helping to met the needs of a population increasingly threatened by food insecurity. However, a garden is often more than simply the food that it produces. “There are many useful benefits with this project,” said Dr. Ahmad Saleh, an agricultural consultant, former professor, and community organizer who is helping to promote urban farming in Gaza. “Rooftop agriculture enables and empowers people. It allows them to find effective ways to confront environmental problems and helps create a healthier population.” Muhyeddin al-Kahlout, a former school director, sees his gardens as a social gathering spot. “We are experiencing severe power shortages and there is already a scarcity of recreational places,” he said. “Many of my friends liked the idea. Now they are starting to think about doing the same on their rooftops.” Via Sondos Walid / Electronic Intifada Images via  Mohamed Hajjar  and  David Berkowitz/Flickr

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Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

Dubai plans to launch autonomous flying drone taxis by mid-2017

February 17, 2017 by  
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Adding to its reputation as a leader in experimental transportation , Dubai is hoping to launch autonomous air taxis capable of transporting people far above the city’s traffic woes as soon as the middle of 2017. According to Auto Blog, the United Arab Emirates Roads and Transportation authority announced the plans earlier this week, after a demonstration of the technology at the three-day World Government Summit . The Chinese-made Ehang 184 drone used in the demonstration can travel at 62 miles per hour at heights up to 984 feet. The drone is powered by an electric motor that can spin its eight propellers for up to 30 minutes at a time, with a two-hour recharge cycle in between. Specially designed to withstand the extreme desert temperatures of the Middle East , the Ehang 184 also comes equipped with a variety of safety features designed to provide peace of mind to those brave souls who choose to fly in it. This includes a program that tells the drone to automatically land at the nearest safe destination if even the most minor thing goes wrong, and secure networks designed to ward off hackers. The fact that its flights are all monitored throughout by ground control should add additional assurance. Related: Meet Gita, an intelligent autonomous cargo robot that can carry your stuff And people could be trusting the Ehang drone with their lives sooner, rather than later, as the head of Dubai’s transportation authority has told the Kuwait Times his ministry is already experimenting with using the autonomous vehicle in-flight. Dubai’s experiments with autonomous drone taxis are just one part of its forward-thinking approach to transport. The country is also the future home of the Elon Musk’s first Hyperloop project , which will connect Abu Dhabi to Dubai, a 100-mile trip that will take just 12 minutes. Via Auto Blog Images via ETC-USC and Sam Valadi , Flickr Creative Commons

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Dubai plans to launch autonomous flying drone taxis by mid-2017

New solar canopy provides both shade and clean energy

February 16, 2017 by  
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In a beautiful marriage of form and function, architect and designer, Carlo Ratti has created a light-reflecting canopy that both creates shade and directs sunlight to a photovoltaic panel where it generates electricity. Called Sun&Shade , the canopy is built with mirrors that rotate automatically with the movement of the sun and reflect its rays to a solar PV panel “located a safe distance away.” Ratti just unveiled the Sun&Shade prototype at Dubai’s Museum of the Future , as part of an exhibit called “Reimagining Climate Change.” Check out the great video overview below. Ratti is no stranger to the world of functional eco art , with past projects that include: a “ supermarket of the future,”  his Paris “coolhouse,” and the New Holland pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. Of his latest creation, Ratti says his inspiration came from the architectural traditions of the Middle East. “In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space,” Ratti explained in a press release. “Sun&Shade aims to bring this concept to the next level, allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled.” Related: MIT’s “supermarket of the future” reveals every product’s history https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gC7Z_3iye8 The position of each of Sun&Shade’s mirrors can be set independently, allowing them to be used to not only control shading and the generation of electricity , but also to create different patterns or even letters from the shadows they cast. + Carlo Ratti Associati Via Curbed Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

January 20, 2017 by  
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Work on the world’s largest solar park is set to move forward this month. Phase 3 of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will add 800 megawatts (MW) of clean energy to the enormous solar park. The project could be a big win for the environment, expected as it is to displace 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year when it is completed. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and energy company Masdar are ready to commence Phase 3 of the groundbreaking solar park now that the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract has been awarded. Phase 3 will be 16 square kilometers, or a little over six square miles, when its three stages – adding 200 MW, 300 MW and 300 MW at a time – are complete, maybe in 2020 in time for the 2020 Dubai World Expo , according to New Civil Engineer. Related: Record-breaking solar prices in Dubai prove cheaper than coal Domingo Vegas Fernández, President of Spanish firm Gransolar , which received the EPC along with Spanish infrastructure company Acciona and Italian construction firm Ghella , said in a statement, “Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park project marks a new global milestone in the development of renewable energy in the Middle East and the world.” When the solar park is totally finished – probably sometime in 2030 – it will generate up to 1,000 MW. Phase 3 follows a publicized bidding war in mid 2016, where one record-breaking bid for Phase 3 was a cheap 2.99 cents per kilowatt-hour , allowing solar power in Dubai to be even cheaper than coal. Dubai ruler and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, for whom the solar park is named, recently presented the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which calls for 50 percent of energy sourced from renewables. Dubai aims to boost their share of renewables by “seven percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2030, and 75 percent by 2050,” according to Masdar . Via New Civil Engineer and Masdar Images via Dubai Electricity and Water Authority – DEWA Facebook and (????)?*:??? on Flickr

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Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month

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