Scientists create eco-friendly, biodegradable microbeads

June 9, 2017 by  
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Microbeads ‘ detriment to the environment is well-documented , yet many companies continue to put the tiny plastic spheres in their products. Scientists at the University of Bath came up with a solution. They created microbeads from cellulose instead, and their alternative is both biodegradable and renewable. One shower can pollute the ocean with 100,000 plastic particles, according to an estimate cited by the University of Bath. These plastic microbeads less than five millimeters in size are way too small to be filtered out by sewage filtration systems, and from sunscreens, toothpastes, or cosmetics end up in the ocean. Fish, birds, and other marine creatures then consume them. Researchers think from there, the microbeads may be entering our food supply . Related: Greenpeace identifies brands that are still polluting oceans with microbeads So a research team at the university developed a way to continuously make biodegradable microbeads. They dissolve cellulose and reform it into beads, by making droplets that are set. They say their process is scalable, and they can draw cellulose from waste products such as those from the paper-making industry. These waste products offer a renewable source of cellulose. Their biodegradable microbeads will stay stable in a body wash, but at sewage treatment facilities can be broken down by organisms. Or the beads will break down in a short period of time if they do make it into the wider environment. Scientist Janet Scott said they’ll biodegrade into harmless sugars. She said in a statement, “Microbeads used in the cosmetics industry are often made of polyethylene or polypropylene, which are cheap and easy to make. However these polymers are derived from oil and they take hundreds of years to break down in the environment…We hope in the future these [microbeads] could be used as a direct replacement for plastic microbeads.” The journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering published a study on the research online the end of May. A team led by Scott just received more than £1 million, around $1.2 million, in funding to develop porous beads, microsponges, and capsules from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council . Via the University of Bath Images via University of Bath

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Scientists create eco-friendly, biodegradable microbeads

Renewable energy powers half of the UK

June 9, 2017 by  
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The UK is not slacking in its goal to slash carbon emissions by 57 percent (based on 1990 levels) by the year 2030. Such was made evident on Wednesday, when the country successfully generated 50.7 percent of its energy from solar, wind, hydro and biomass. Another first was recorded when nuclear, wind and solar each generated more electricity than gas and coal combined. The National Grid tweeted the good news and said, “For the first time ever this lunchtime wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined.” According to Engadget , favorable weather conditions helped the UK reach this milestone. Clear skies and very strong winds resulted in wind farms contributing 9.5GW of power and solar panels around 7.6GW of electricity. If nuclear sources were added to the equation, Britain would have sourced 72.1 percent of its electricity from low-carbon sources. As a result of the surge in renewable energy , coal production was entirely stopped for the rest of the day. Aware that “dirty” fossil fuels contribute to climate change which may propel natural disasters, the UK government has begun lowering coal production with an intention to abandon it completely by 2025. Related: First Apple Store in Southeast Asia is 100% powered by renewable energy The sovereign state is making notable strides in its goal to become a leader in renewables. At the end of 2016, the UK was able to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewables and other low carbon sources. Reportedly, wind, solar and hydro energy contributed about one-fourth of the total energy; 25 percent was derived from nuclear reactors. Via Engadget Images via Pixabay

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Renewable energy powers half of the UK

9 of the world’s biggest fishing companies agree to protect the oceans

June 9, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are in trouble, and nine of the biggest fishing firms recently decided to help. They’re banding together in a voluntary initiative to protect oceans from problems like overfishing , which is rapidly depleting the oceans of fish . They’ll also target issues like pollution and the use of slave labor . The initiative, known as the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), is backed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre . The companies committed to boosting transparency to reduce illegal fishing in the supply chain, as well as avoiding products obtained through slave labor. They’ll also focus on plastic pollution and greenhouse gases . The Guardian reported it’s the first time companies from the United States, Europe, and Asia have come together to work towards such goals. Related: The world’s fish are vanishing far faster than previously thought Stockholm Resilience Centre deputy science director Henrik Osterblöm told The Guardian, “Sustainable marine ecosystems will be essential to feed a growing population, but the oceans are at risk. Seafood makes up 20 percent of the global intake of animal protein.” Among the nine companies are the two biggest companies in terms of revenue, Maruha Nichiro Corporation and Nippon Suisan Kaisha. The two biggest salmon companies, two biggest tuna companies, and two biggest aquafeeds companies also signed, according to the Stockholm Resilience Centre. The organization initiated the conversation, inviting 13 corporations that control 11 to 16 percent of wild marine catch and 40 percent of valuable species. Osterblöm said the center was excited so many companies did show up and agree to the initiative. According to The Guardian, it’s estimated around half of the world’s catch comes from illegal fishing – those fisherman either trespass into waters, use illegal gear, or catch more fish than they’re supposed to, sometimes even catching endangered fish. Slavery has also marred the industry; an investigation in 2014 found exploitation and loss of human rights was rampant in parts of fishing grounds in Asia. Announcing the initiative is part of the United Nations Ocean Conference this week. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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9 of the world’s biggest fishing companies agree to protect the oceans

8 fabulous and creative Father’s Day gifts from $0 to $27,500

June 9, 2017 by  
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Finding the right gift for Dad can be elusive; ties, golf clubs, and a good set of knives feel kind of tired by now. So we rounded up 8 gifts that transcend the standard gift box and fit a variety of budgets and personalities. Whether you pick a tiny timber cabin for your backyard or a palm-sized solar lamp for nighttime adventures, Dad will love that you went the extra mile for a sustainable, stylish present. 1. Sustainable wood “blocks” Building block love is enduring, and Kengo Kuma’s Japanese spin on the all-age, favorite toy will be a hit with every member of the family. Using FSC Japanese cedar and a triangular shape, Kuma collaborated with conservation group More Trees  to create the Tsumiki (which is the Japanese word for building blocks ). Dads (and their kiddos) will love to arrange the Tsumiki into architectural configurations as well as whimsical animals and myriad creative designs. + Tsumiki blocks 2. Shoes partially made with recycled plastic bottles Perhaps Papa needs a new set of kicks. Gift him a pair of these versatile canvas shoes created as a collaboration between Timberland and Thread , a responsible fabric company. The outsoles comprise 15 percent recycled rubber and the uppers are crafted from 50 percent recycled PET bottles found in the streets and landfills of Haiti . The venture not only yields lightweight, stylish shoes , but also job opportunities and a cleaner environment in Haiti. + Timberland x Thread Collection 3. Electric bike The Propella 2.0 rides and feels like a traditional bike , but it’s got plenty of tricks hidden in its design. What looks like a water bottle is actually a battery that will help power Dad on a commute or joy ride around town. The bike’s lightweight design and pedal-assisted electric power means that riders can top out at 20 mph, a boon when it’s time to pick up the kiddos from childcare. Electric blue rims add a playful element to the otherwise minimalist design. Preorder the Propella 2.0   here for a September delivery. Related: 8 Last minute Father’s Day gifts for the procrastinator’s Papa 4. Portable solar lamp The Little Sun Original , designed by Olafur Eliasson , resembles a flower , and it is powered by the sun. Ideal for camping trips, taking midnight walks on a beach, or reading after the kids go to bed, this dimmable lamp comes with an affordable price tag ($25) and can stay charged for up to 50 hours. This gift for Dad also pays it forward: for every Little Sun sold, another goes to rural Africa to be sold at a locally affordable price by trusted partners. + Little Sun Original 5. Mini aquarium ecosystem Aqua Design Innovations’ EcoQube C was the most popular aquarium ever on Kickstarter, and the allure is understandable. This portable ecosystem uses an integrated aquaponics filter to turn fish waste into plant fertilizer. The fertilizer fuels the growth of the plant, which then cleans the water, reducing the need for filter changes and also reducing energy and water usage. The same company recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for the EcoQube Frame , a vertical veggie and sprout garden. It’s available in December, so we now also know what Dad is getting for the holidays… + EcoQube C 6. A jacket and a backpack in one It’s a jacket, it’s a backpack , it’s a RuckJack , and it goes from one to the other with a zip, flip, and clip. Dad can start off an adventure wearing the RuckJack as a backpack; if the weather gets cool or rainy he can quickly convert it into a jacket and use the extra cargo bag on the back panel and extra pockets to distribute the rest of his load. RuckJack has partnered with WeForest to plant 10 trees in deforested areas around the world with every RuckJack purchase. + RuckJack Image via Agenzia Del Demanio 7. A free Italian building An Italian castle, farmhouse, inn, or monastery for FREE ? Sounds like the best, gratis Father’s Day present for an entrepreneurial DIY dad. 103 historic buildings are up for grabs with the caveat that new owners have to restore the sites and transform them into a tourist-friendly destination, such as a restaurant or hotel . If the family has ever dreamed of moving to Italy and setting up a picturesque B & B or trattoria, now is your chance. Our only suggestion: run this one by Dad before committing to this exciting and challenging effort designed to promote slow tourism. Apply (in Italian) here . 8. A MUJI mini house If you’ve got a tiny backyard and a spare 27 grand and change (and live in Japan), you can gift Dad with the ultimate tiny escape . Courtesy of cult minimalist company MUJI , these tiny timber cabins are sleek and simple…especially if it’s a kid-free zone and the floor isn’t littered with toys and clothes. One side is comprised almost completely of a sliding glass door; it’s almost as if they designed it so Dad can lay in a comfy position inside while watching the kids play just outside the door. + MUJI hut

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8 fabulous and creative Father’s Day gifts from $0 to $27,500

First estimate of plastic entering oceans from rivers yields shocking results

June 7, 2017 by  
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How much plastic do rivers dump into the world’s oceans ? The Ocean Cleanup decided to find out. They conducted what they say is the “first-ever estimate of plastic emissions from rivers” and the results are shocking, as in, between 1.15 and 2.41 million metric tons annually shocking. They say knowing the trash’s origins will help them better deploy their plastic-scooping cleanup arrays. Scientists have known for a long time rivers deposit plastic into oceans, but before this study no one had ever quantified just how much plastic is flowing from rivers, or how much each river contributes, according to The Ocean Cleanup . To answer such questions, researcher Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup designed a model drawing from data on waste management , population density, dam locations, hydrography, and topography. Related: Redesigned Ocean Cleanup arrays to start scooping up Pacific garbage patch within a year The researchers found out of 40,760 rivers, a mere 20 contribute two thirds of the plastic input. The plastic also enters oceans more heavily between May and October: three quarters of plastic released makes its way into ocean waters then. The Ocean Cleanup created an interactive map to help visualize the issue. The map tells a user how many kilograms of plastic have entered the oceans just since they started viewing it. You can check it out here . The Ocean Cleanup founder and CEO Boyan Slat said in a statement, “We’re pleased to see how many initiatives have been taken in the past few years to raise awareness of the ocean pollution problem. However, for our work in the deep ocean to succeed in the long run, it’s crucial that governments and other organizations speed up their efforts to mitigate the sources of the problem we aim to resolve. The results of this latest study can assist with those efforts.” The journal Nature Communications published the study online today . Four Ocean Cleanup researchers were joined by one scientist from North Carolina State University and an expert from HKV Consultants in the Netherlands . + The Ocean Cleanup Images via The Ocean Cleanup

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First estimate of plastic entering oceans from rivers yields shocking results

A spectacular staircase draws you into this breathtaking daylit loft in Vienna

June 7, 2017 by  
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This renovated loft in Vienna has a sculptural staircase at its core that appears to support the entire upper floor. Design studio Smartvoll sought to preserve as much of the original space as possible while cultivating a minimalist feel reminiscent of Adolf Loos’s interiors. The renovation of the 3,767-square-foot Loft Panzerhalle introduced an abundance of natural light into the interior. The architects left the ribbon windows on the upper floor intact instead of creating galleries typical in modern loft design . An impressive central staircase sweeps upwards like a concrete sculpture, rounding off the composition. The staircase also divides the room while creating a roof over the kitchen, recesses and elevations. Related: Architects turn a cramped apartment into a gorgeous loft where the owner’s cats can roam freely While concrete dominates the space, semi-transparent materials were used to delineate the guest area and bedroom. All the furniture looks integrated into the construction, celebrating free space and minimalist aesthetics. “We wanted to revitalize the space’s original charm,” said the architects. “Magnanimity and a spatial experience of both storeys were priorities. In all dimensions.” + Smartvoll Architects Via v2com Photos by Tobias Colz/smartvoll

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A spectacular staircase draws you into this breathtaking daylit loft in Vienna

New NASA probe will get closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history

June 1, 2017 by  
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Humanity has never before touched the sun , but that’s about to change. NASA is sending the Parker Solar Probe to the sun in 2018, and will get closer to the star’s surface than any other spacecraft in history. They say the landmark mission “will revolutionize our understanding of the sun.” The Parker Solar Probe mission – which NASA describes as humanity’s first visit to a star – will take us closer to the sun than ever before. The probe will need to endure extreme radiation and heat as it ventures into the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. NASA says the Parker Solar Probe will gather information on the corona and on the evolution and origin of solar wind . Related: Teen creates world’s lightest satellite and NASA is sending it to space A 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield will protect the instruments inside the spacecraft from crazy temperatures of around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The various instruments will be able to image solar wind, and study plasma and energetic particles and magnetic fields. Even though we’re around 93 million miles away from the sun on average, solar wind disturbances can affect us here on Earth. They impact what NASA calls space weather, which can interfere with our satellites . NASA says much like the seafarers of old had to learn about the ocean, now we must learn more about the space environment. The mission holds claim to another first: the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living person. Once called the Solar Probe Plus, NASA this week renamed the probe for astrophysicist Eugene Parker, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. His work decades ago provided a foundation for much of our knowledge about stars’ interaction with worlds orbiting them. Parker, who will turn 90 this month, said in a statement, “The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before. It’s very exciting that we’ll finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what’s going on in the solar wind. I’m sure that there will be some surprises. There always are.” Via NASA ( 1 , 2 ) Images via John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and JHU/APL

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New NASA probe will get closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history

NGOs alone will not turn the tide on ocean trash

May 30, 2017 by  
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A clear-eyed optimistic strategy involving businesses, governments and individuals can create a seismic shift in the way we tackle the ocean plastic crisis

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NGOs alone will not turn the tide on ocean trash

Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal step up on deforestation

May 30, 2017 by  
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The multinational personal care companies are among new supporters of the CDP’s forest supply chain initiative, which requires deeper disclosure from key suppliers.

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Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal step up on deforestation

Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

May 26, 2017 by  
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A previously undetected layer of tectonic plates may offer answers to the mysterious Vityaz earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean . Researchers recently presented their preliminary findings on an additional layer of tectonic plates in Earth’s mantle at a joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Japan Geoscience Union in Tokyo. These plates might have moved into the mantle millions of years ago. Scientists have known for over 50 years that continents slowly move around Earth, and the ocean floor rips apart as they do. Magma from the Earth’s mantle fills these gaps. But when tectonic plates converge, subduction, or the process of one plate edge moving down into the mantle, occurs. Scientist Johnny Wu of the University of Houston shared new evidence of a layer of tectonic plates that long ago subducted into the mantle. Related: Newly discovered link between two faults could lead to a much bigger San Francisco earthquake The recently discovered tectonic plates are in the mantle’s so-called transition zone, around 273 to 410 miles under the surface in the Tonga area. The plates move horizontally nearly as fast as plates do at the surface, and breaks and bends in these newly found plates can lead to earthquakes. Seismology advances helped make the find possible. Scientists are now able to make pictures of the interior of the planet utilizing vibrations from natural earthquakes. Wu put it this way: “Think of Hubble . We look out, and the further we look out the more things we discover, not just about the universe – we’re actually looking back in time. And this new seismology is like turning the Hubble to look into the Earth , because as we look deeper and get clearer images, we can see what the Earth might have looked like further and further back in time.” Another scientist from the University of Houston, one from the China Earthquake Administration , and a fourth from the University of Utah were also part of the research , which was presented at the meeting on Tuesday. The findings haven’t been peer reviewed yet, but could change the way scientists look at plate movement. Via The Guardian Images via YXO on Flickr and Nguyen Tan Tin on Flickr

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Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

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