Atolla combines technology with design to customize sustainable skincare

January 21, 2019 by  
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The skincare market has exploded with so many options that sometimes it feels like you need a PhD just to pick the right moisturizer. Costs seem to be rising right along with the breadth of product lines, so the pressure is on to find the right skincare in order to save yourself from money wasted on products that don’t perform for your skin type, not to mention the enormous amounts of packaging waste left behind from trial-and-error purchases. One entrepreneur feels your pain. Meghan Maupin, MIT grad and CEO of Atolla skincare, has taken a new approach to the entire skincare dilemma by bringing technology into the mix. The process begins with an at-home skin analysis via a kit and phone app. Based on the results, Atolla then formulates a custom serum. Each month, factors such as weather , oil production and changes in your skin during the month are taken into account, and a new serum is formulated. Atolla even evaluates the interaction with other products you use as well as age, diet, skin sensitivities and prior issues such as eczema or psoriasis. Computers evaluate the data based on skin imagery, allowing algorithms to calculate what is working and what is not. Related: Can drinkable sunscreen protect your skin from the inside out? Almost as important as effective skincare  is the customer’s satisfaction with the product they are using, so consumer preferences are also considered in the formula. For example, if the customer prefers a lightweight feel or doesn’t care for a particular scent, Atolla will adapt to those preferences. While working on her thesis, Maupin realized there is an extraordinary amount of waste in the beauty industry. From jars and squeeze tubes to products tossed out after a trial to the ingredients that end up in our waste stream, she feels that the best action we can take toward sustainability is to buy fewer products. She wants to accomplish this by ensuring the customer buys the right product the first time around. Related: Bambu Earth’s responsible soap & skincare is packaged with seeded paper To meet this goal, Atolla takes a different approach to skincare production. Maupin’s philosophy is to use quality ingredients to make fewer products in contrast to mass-producing standardized products that sit on the shelf before ending up in the waste stream. Along with creating effective, personalized products, the company strives to empower their customers with information about their skin, such as what ingredients to watch out for and how to create a skincare system that will help them meet long-term goals at an acceptable price point. Tests start at $10 and systems run up to $50 monthly. Customers report that the system is easy to use, which checks another box off everyone’s skincare goal list. + Atolla Via Core77 Images via Atolla

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Atolla combines technology with design to customize sustainable skincare

Essential old-fashioned tools and practices to make your kitchen more sustainable

January 21, 2019 by  
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Between planning meals , dragging home groceries, cooking and clean up, the kitchen is the hub of activity in most homes. That means it can also be a significant source of waste. However, there are lots of ways to make your kitchen more sustainable. If you’re looking for ways to cut back on disposables and instead invest in products that will serve you for many years, we have some ideas for you to consider. Cast iron skillets and Le Creuset If you have ever used heavy-duty cast iron, you know that a single seasoned pan will last for generations. With proper care, your children and their children will be using the same pans a hundred years from now. Related: 10 ways to use up mushy, overripe bananas Peppermill Off the vine, peppercorn is round and looks like a tiny grape. Once dried, the freshest way to enjoy peppercorn is ground directly onto your food. Avoid the waste from the myriad containers your ground pepper comes in and use a traditional peppermill instead. Buy your peppercorns in bulk and bring your own jar to eliminate packaging altogether. Mortar and pestle All things worth enjoying require a bit of effort, and a mortar and pestle is the perfect example of that. Although it means manually mashing your herbs and other ingredients, a mortar and pestle eliminates the needs for other gadgets in your kitchen and produces a fresh result in your cooking. Stainless steel When it comes to sustainability, stainless steel is a good product to reach for. Not only does it consume limited resources during production, but it is a long-lasting material and completely recyclable at the end of its functionality. To make your kitchen more eco-friendly , skip the petroleum-based plastic products and reach for stainless steel measuring cups and spoons, microplanes, ice trays if you still use them, mixing bowls, strainers, shakers and compost bins. Knives This is one area of your kitchen worth the initial investment. Good chef’s knives will pay you dividends for a lifetime. As a bonus, this means less waste from cheaper alternatives that don’t make the cut. Ceramic, stone or glass Once again, it’s important to incorporate materials made from the earth and both ceramic and glass are great options. Think ceramic ginger grater, glass or ceramic pie dish and stoneware cooking sheets. Manual tools In the long-term, sticking with traditional tools in the kitchen will save electricity costs. Plus, you’ll gain added satisfaction in the simplicity of cooking with a metal potato masher, non-electric hand mixer, manual can opener, food mill (applesauce maker) and an old-fashioned knife instead of a food chopper or garlic press. Wood Wood is another material sourced from nature and eco-friendly. Shop for wooden salad bowls, wood spoons for stirring, bamboo steamers, cutting boards and serving bowls. Storage containers We all like to hang on to those leftovers and that’s a great way to reduce waste , but plastic and foil are both problematic for the environment so consider other options for your storage needs. For the refrigerator, purchase glass or stainless steel containers with interchangeable lids. While you’re at it, replace plastic wrap with bowl covers or beeswax sheets that mould around the container. Also consider your staple products and find see-through glass jars to house your flour, cereal, pasta, beans and sugar. Spices are easy to organize and use in matching glass jars. Mason jars are another great option for storing nuts, seeds, homemade salad dressing and much more. Towels and napkins We have become accustomed to the disposable society around us, which means you may not think about reaching for a paper towel to wipe up the spill on the floor. When you consider the chemicals and water usage required to turn trees into paper products though, an earth-friendly alternative is to use cloth napkins and towels. With a little practice you’ll realize why humans got by just fine on these options, sans the single-use waste. Beverage containers A few carefully-chosen beverage containers can replace thousands of disposable cups. Grab a high-quality stainless steel coffee mug and one of the many non-plastic options for your water to make a quick and powerful contribution to the health of the planet. Cleaning tools Kitchens are messy, so consider tools that will allow you to clean it up without having an adverse effect on the environment. Purchase natural dish brushes that decompose in the landfill instead of plastic options or sponges that both end up clogging the waste stream. There are very few things that some combination of baking soda and vinegar alone can’t clean. Also look into glycerin, salt and citrus as powerful aids in cleaning without the toxic chemical contribution. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners Shopping Remember that perhaps the biggest impact you can make toward a green kitchen starts with your purchasing decisions. It seems that everything these days is wrapped in plastic so seek out alternatives. It’s best to grow your own food, but another option is to attend local farmers’ markets. Bring your own reusable shopping and produce bags to the store. Select produce that has not been bundled in plastic bags and hunt down stores that offer compostable produce bags as an option. Also bring your own containers directly to the bulk section to further eliminate waste. Cooking practices Another fabulous way to cut waste is to make your own foods rather than buying pre-packaged options. Breads are quick and easy to make. Make granola bars and protein balls for school lunches. Cook up your own yogurt and ditch the individual plastic containers. Turning your kitchen into a simplified oasis of earth-friendly food production begins with evaluating the supplies you need and making decisions about the best options to fulfil those needs. Focus on conscientious purchases that combine wholesome food along with sustainable tools and you have a recipe for a long-term low-carbon-footprint kitchen. Images via Shutterstock

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Essential old-fashioned tools and practices to make your kitchen more sustainable

MIT develops a sustainable, mass timber-building prototype modeled after the longhouse

September 27, 2018 by  
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As sustainability measures become increasingly important in new construction, architects around the world are turning toward mass timber — even for large-scale projects. A workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is dedicated to exploring the design and engineering potential of wood-based technologies and recently unveiled one such example that can even be turned into an energy producer. Dubbed the Longhouse, the mass timber -building prototype is modeled after the traditional building type of the same name that has been historically used as a place for community gatherings. Led by research scientist John Klein, the cross-disciplinary team at the MIT Mass Timber Design workshop that developed the Longhouse prototype studied how mass timber products can be used to create modern buildings. Research has shown that mass timber structures have a lower carbon footprint than their conventional building counterparts and can be engineered for substantial strength and fire resistance. Moreover, greater use of mass timber technology could lead to improved forest management and restoration. The MIT Longhouse prototype would serve as a multifunctional building that could accommodate a variety of events, from co-working, exercise classes, social gatherings, exhibitions, lectures and more. To create a flexible and open-plan interior, the building would be engineered with a series of timber laminated veneer lumber (LVL) arches that are 40 feet tall at the central peak and span 50 feet across. Each arch uses a thin-walled triangular profile and would be prefabricated in sections and then assembled on site for a fast and efficient construction process. Related: The nation’s largest timber office building is coming to Newark The building is also designed to follow passive solar principles while its sawtooth roof would allow for ample natural daylighting and could accommodate solar panels. The MIT Mass Timber Design workshop will present its Longhouse design at the Maine Mass Timber Conference this October. + MIT Mass Timber Design workshop Images via MIT Mass Timber Design

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MIT develops a sustainable, mass timber-building prototype modeled after the longhouse

Role-playing video game sparks climate action in players worldwide

September 10, 2018 by  
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Research published last week in the journal PLoS One examined the effects of World Climate Simulation, a role-playing game of the UN climate talks. The video game found that 81 percent of participants showed an increased desire to combat climate change despite political beliefs. The game’s ability to bridge gaps across the political spectrum and engage those who are less concerned about the need for climate action is a major benchmark in propelling the environment to the forefront of national and international policy making. The research group examined the virtual advocates’ beliefs about climate change , emotional responses to its effects and intent to improve climate-change-inducing behaviors. In total, 2,000 participants — from eight different countries, four continents and various age groups from middle school students to CEOs — were selected for the assessment. The analysis concluded that participants exhibited both a greater sense of urgency as well as hope in combating climate change, alongside a desire to understand more about climate science and the impact of climate change. Related: Girl Scouts introduces 30 new badges with emphasis on the environment and STEM “It was this increased sense of urgency, not knowledge, that was key to sparking motivation to act,” said Juliette Rooney Varga, lead researcher of University of Massachusetts’s Lowell Climate Change Initiative . “The big question for climate change communication is: how can we build the knowledge and emotions that drive informed action without real-life experience which, in the case of climate change, will only come too late?” Co-author Andrew Jones of Climate Interactive provided “three key ingredients” in response: “information grounded in solid science, an experience that helps people feel for themselves on their own terms and social interaction arising from conversation with their peers.” Developed nations within the game pledge monetary support to developing nations through the Green Climate Fund, a fund designed to cut emissions and help countries adapt to the change. The real-life climate policy computer model C-ROADS then receives the players’ choices and gives immediate feedback on how the decisions will ultimately impact the environment. C-ROADS has been used to support the real UN climate negotiations as well, as it is an effective simulator of expected outcomes. “Research shows that showing people research doesn’t work,” said John Sterman, co-author of the study and professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “World Climate works because it enables people to express their own views, explore their own proposals and thus learn for themselves what the likely impacts will be.” The players’ first negotiations usually backslide when they see the future outcomes on their health, prosperity and welfare. The next rounds of negotiation using C-ROADS are generally much more aggressive in achieving emission cuts after players see how climate change impacts their own lives. The game is now being used as an official resource for schools in France, Germany and South Korea. The social interactions fostered by World Climate Simulation are proving a valuable resource in achieving a global movement to advocate for climate action. The game is also showing that education is a key component in successfully implementing climate policy within government. + MIT Image via Glenn Carstens-Peters

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Role-playing video game sparks climate action in players worldwide

MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

April 23, 2018 by  
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Is China turning the tide on pollution ? The country stands to benefit not just environmentally, but financially as well. A new MIT study found if China reduces carbon dioxide emissions by four percent a year, the nation could net around $339 billion in health savings by the year 2030. That figure could be around four times what it would cost the country to achieve climate goals – in other words, according to MIT, “the country’s climate policy would more than pay for itself.” Fulfilling its international pledge to cut carbon emissions makes sense for China in many ways. Not only could the nation contribute significantly to the global battle against climate change (as it’s the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases) – but the health impacts for Chinese citizens could be huge. Improving air quality could avoid a considerable amount of deaths from air pollution in every province — and MIT put a dollar figure on the benefit to society: $339 billion. Related: China reports meeting its 2020 carbon intensity goals three years early MIT associate professor Noelle Eckley Selin co-authored the study published today in Nature Climate Change . In a statement, she said: “The country could actually come out net positive, just based on the health co-benefits associated with air quality improvements, relative to the cost of a climate policy. This is a motivating factor for countries to engage in global climate policy.” How did the team reach their figure? They developed a modeling approach called the Regional Emissions Air Quality Climate and Health framework, combining an energy -economic model and atmospheric chemistry model. They used the energy-economic model “to simulate how a given climate policy changes a province’s economic activity, energy use, and emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.” They ran simulations under four scenarios: one with no policy and three with policies aiming to cut emissions through 2030 by three, four, and five percent a year. They then plugged in results into the atmospheric chemistry model and estimated particulate matter concentrations for provinces to help calculate the pollution communities are inhaling. Epidemiological literature helped them figure out how many deaths could be avoided. They calculated the economic value of the deaths, which they compared against the total cost of implementing a policy scenario. Their findings? In a no-policy scenario, by 2030 there would be over 2.3 million premature, pollution-related deaths. In the three, four, or five percent emissions reductions scenarios, China could respectively avoid 36,000, 94,000, and 160,000 premature deaths. The savings “gained as a result of health co-benefits equals $138.4 billion, $339.6 billion, and $534.8 billion, respectively,” according to MIT. + MIT Images via Diego Jimenez , Frak Lopez , and Manon Boyer on Unsplash

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MIT study shows that China’s climate policy could "more than pay for itself"

MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

April 18, 2018 by  
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Scientists used to make graphene -based membranes in small batches in a laboratory. But a new breakthrough at MIT enables researchers to roll out large sheets of high-quality graphene. The continuous manufacturing process can produce five centimeters of high-quality graphene per minute. The longest run was nearly four hours, and it generated around 10 meters of continuous graphene. MIT is calling the development “the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules.” These membranes could be utilized in biological separation or desalination , for example. The researchers drew from the common industrial roll-to-roll approach blended with chemical vapor deposition, a common graphene-fabrication technique. Related: Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy Their system is comprised of two spools linked by a conveyor belt, which runs through a furnace. According to MIT, here’s how it works: “The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a ‘split-zone’ design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene.” MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering John Hart said, “In the end-to-end process, we would need to integrate more operations into the manufacturing line. For now, we’ve demonstrated that this process can be scaled up, and we hope this increases confidence and interest in graphene-based membrane technologies, and provides a pathway to commercialization.” The journal Applied Materials and Interfaces recently published the work; scientists from Vanderbilt University , the California Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore contributed. + MIT News + Applied Materials and Interfaces Images via Christine Daniloff, MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

A giant, air-purifying "cloud" just popped up in the middle of Milan

April 18, 2018 by  
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If you’re tired of breathing less-than-clean city air , Milan has a temporary respite for you. “Transitions,” a giant, cloud-like pod, has landed in the heart of the Brera Design District for Milan Design Week 2018 . As envisioned by Takehiro Ikeda, the enormous “water-drop pavilion” uses Panasonic ‘s cutting edge air-purifying technology to provide all those who enter with clean, cool air. Most cloud-like design installations create mist using gases, which aren’t exactly good for the visitors’ health. The Panasonic pavilion, however, employs only natural water to build an intangible and immersive experience: a walk through atmospheric, ultra-fine mist created with the company’s groundbreaking technology. Panasonic’s “Nanoe x” technology collects moisture from the air and uses high voltage to create nano-sized particles of water. Highly reactive components called OH radicals — which are generated in huge numbers and inhibit viruses and bacteria — remove odors and allergens and prevent mold. The pavilion utilizes compressed air to turn water into a “silky fine mist.” Unlike a conventional two-fluid nozzle model, this technology creates a fine mist using low-pressure air and eliminates the need for large compressors, making it an attractive option for city cooling technology. Takehiro Ikeda said the “Transition” installation is a preview of the latest air purification research, which will be used during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to guarantee a pleasant, cool atmosphere during the hot Japanese summer. Related: Kengo Kuma wins bid for Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, Zaha Hadid speaks out The project is also energy-efficient. Instead of using large amounts of natural resources to power the air conditioning system, the pavilion – which measures about 20 meters in diameter – needs only a few liters of water for each functioning cycle. With this installation, Panasonic is celebrating its 100-year anniversary and transitioning towards a new creative philosophy: designing products, services and experiences that go beyond physical products to address emotional and environmental well-being. + Milan Design Week 2018 Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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A giant, air-purifying "cloud" just popped up in the middle of Milan

The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles

April 18, 2018 by  
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Belgium -based AB Inbev, the world’s largest beer brewing company, has created a new low-carbon method for adding bubbles to beer . The technique, which is expected to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by 5 percent, involves heating the brew to just below boiling point, then pumping in CO2 or nitrogen to create gas bubbles. Typically, bubbles are created during the boiling process, which requires a great deal of heat and water. AB Inbev claims that using lower temperatures in the early brewing process cuts emissions and results in a beer that stays fresh for longer. AB Inbev fine-tuned and tested this method for four years at an experimental brewery in Leuven near Brussels, then later at large facilities in the United Kingdom. These bubbles are not to be confused with the bubbles that emerge when cracking open a cold one. The oh-so-satisfying suds are a product of fermentation — in which yeast consumes sugars within the brew to create CO2 and alcohol — and pressure formed through kegging or bottling. Related: Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market The company’s 5 percent annual emissions reduction is roughly equivalent of the energy consumption of 120,000 Western families. The method will also lead to a 0.5 percent reduction in water consumption which is the equivalent of 1,200 Olympic swimming pools. “Our innovation is to heat everything up to just below boiling point, which provides 80 percent energy savings at this point in time,” AB Inbev Europe research director David De Schutter told The Guardian . “There is a lot less steam released, which allows you to spend less on water. In our case, we managed to go from 5 percent evaporated water to less than 1 percent.” Cheers to that! Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles

Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

April 18, 2018 by  
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Baboons  escaped a biomedical research facility over the weekend with the help of a 55-gallon barrel. Gizmodo reported  that one clever baboon figured out how to turn a barrel upright and use it to climb fencing. Three others followed and the group hit the road, although one returned on its own — but sadly, their freedom didn’t last long. Baboons hit the road after escaping from a Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI) facility. Inward-leaning walls on their open-air enclosure (seen in the video above) have kept animals from leaving in the past 35 or so years, but that didn’t stop these primates . According to the institute’s statement , the animals rolled the barrel to an upright position to ultimately jump out of the enclosure. An animal capture team, wearing protective masks and suits, captured the three animals who did leave around 20-30 minutes after. Two baboons were held to the tree line, but one made it to a nearby street. ABC News shared a video on Twitter of members of the team chasing one of the baboons on a Texas highway. Four baboons escaped their enclosure at a San Antonio biomedical research facility Saturday. A woman then spotted one leading researchers on a wild foot chase down a Texas highway. All of the baboons were safely returned according to a statement. https://t.co/sA148VbSDd pic.twitter.com/pPBW4V5ZIu — ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2018 Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys There are over 2,500 animals at the institute’s campus; almost 1,100 are baboons. These four escapees were part of a group of 133 males, according to HuffPost , that aren’t currently being used for testing. TBRI assistant vice president for communications Lisa Cruz said in the institute’s statement baboons “have played an important role in the discovery of life-saving drugs, therapies, and vaccines and have led to greater understanding of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and so much more that impact the lives of millions of people.” The barrels, introduced in the enclosure just six to eight months ago, were what TBRI calls enrichment tools, and they’ve been removed. TBRI reported the returned baboons are doing well, but not everyone on social media thinks the baboons should have had to go back to the institute. People on Twitter called for the primates to find a new home in an animal sanctuary . This is heartbreaking. 4 baboons worked together to roll a 55 gallon barrel and escape the research facility where they were subject to horrifying medical experiments. They earned their freedom. Let them go to a sanctuary. Some animals are too sentient to be subjected to this. https://t.co/pWiykNdAW8 — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018 Four baboons planned their escape from your facility and escaped by positioning a 55 pound barrel so they could climb out. What does that tell you about your facility? You make me sick @txbiomed – have the decency to send them to a sanctuary. https://t.co/jRhD9xjG2L — Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) April 17, 2018 + Texas Biomedical Research Institute Via Gizmodo and HuffPost Image © Clem Spalding Photography (210) 271-7273, courtesy of Texas Biomed

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

MIT claims that clean, limitless nuclear fusion energy is just 15 years away

March 9, 2018 by  
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You’ve probably heard about the promise of nuclear fusion before… many times. But when MIT is involved, it’s best to listen up. The university has teamed up with Commonwealth Fusion Systems , and they believe that clean, limitless power could be just around the corner. Thanks to the development of a new superconductor, the team believes that they can have a working fusion power plant on-grid within the next 15 years. Scientists have been trying to make nuclear fusion happen for decades, and for a good reason – it could provide nearly endless clean energy without the risks associated with nuclear energy. In the 1950s, scientists theorized that nuclear fusion was just a few decades away. Then, after that failed to materialize, scientists in the 1970s said that it was just a few more decades away. Cut to today, and it seems like we are no closer to nuclear fusion power… until now. Related: ‘We were blown away’ – researchers eliminate obstacle to fusion energy So what makes this time different, I hear you ask? The team says that a new type of superconductor that just became available is the breakthrough they were looking for. Part of the problem with making nuclear fusion happen is that you have to be able to heat things up to a mind-boggling 150 million degrees, which turns most containers into plasma. MIT and Commonwealth plan to use this new superconductor – made of steel tape coated with yttrium-barium-copper oxide – to make magnets that will help make nuclear fusion a reality. “This is an important historical moment: Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. + MIT Via Fast Company Images via MIT

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