Stroodles lets you eat your straw

October 21, 2019 by  
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Now you can one-up your most eco-conscious friends. Instead of composting your straw after you finish your drink, now, you can just eat it. Stroodles , a new straw made out of pasta, solves the ethical straw problem. Made in Italy, the pasta straws are made out of only two ingredients: durum wheat and water. So vegans are in luck, but people with Celiac disease aren’t. Other than a possible starchy taste, Stroodles are flavorless. If you choose not to eat your Stroodle, it will decompose in days rather than a month, like a paper straw, or never, like a plastic straw. Stroodles are stronger than paper straws, lasting up to an hour or two in a cold drink without getting soggy. But don’t use a Stroodle in a hot drink, as it will turn into an ordinary noodle. Related: Tooth: the eco-friendly toothbrush made from recycled and biodegradable materials The UK-based company donates a share of sales to Ocean Plastic, an organization fighting plastic waste, and other charities. When they arrive from the supplier, workers manually sort the pasta straws. Those deemed imperfect or inferior are donated to food banks through City Harvest and, presumably, turned into spaghetti . According to the Stroodles website, “With Stroodles, you don’t have to change behaviours and compromise on your drinking experience. By stroodling your drink , you can do good, the easy way. We call this ‘drink-easy.’” Americans alone use about 500 million plastic straws per day. Around the world, countries, states and cities are banning single-use plastics, including straws. Stroodles has picked the right moment to turn the world on to pasta straws. As they claim, “Stroodles is not just another straw company! Stroodles is a movement. Stroodles is here to help fight plastic waste and straws are just our first channel of choice. We want to inspire the world and show how easy it is to do good – with just one Stroodle at a time.” + Stroodles Images via Stroodles

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How to have a plastic-free Halloween

October 21, 2019 by  
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Reducing plastic waste in a world that seems to be wrapped in it is no easy task, and that challenge is multiplied when it comes to holidays. From gift giving to decorations, plastic is everywhere. To avoid it takes a conscientious effort and a plan. With Halloween festivities on the horizon, we’ve put one together for you. When planning for a plastic-free Halloween, remember to encompass all aspects of the event to eliminate the greatest amount of waste. Costumes Trick-or-treating is an important element of the holiday for most kids. Even those that don’t head out for the door-to-door ritual find themselves needing a costume for a school dance, community event or house party. Even adults participate in the fun. Costumes create an opportunity to invite plastic into your home, especially ensembles that are store-bought. Order one online, and you’ll likely see additional plastic in the packaging. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween The best way to avoid plastic in your costume is to make it yourself . Focus on cloth designs, especially those with organic cotton and other natural fibers . Also, look for ways to use paper or cardboard instead of plastic. Watch those accessories, too: plastic belts, pistols, staffs and hats. If you can’t go entirely plastic-free to complete the look, at least avoid new plastic by borrowing or buying secondhand. Decorations Decorations are to blame for massive amounts of plastic. Skip the giant inflatable ghost or skeleton on the front lawn in favor of a more eco-friendly wood or metal option. Build a haunted house out of a giant cardboard box, or pull together those wood scraps to carve out a black cat. Old pallet boards make fun and easy decor a possibility. You can create single signs or stack boards of different sizes on a stake for a spooky or friendly front porch decor option. Inside the home, Halloween wreaths will last for many years if they are made from burlap, straw or hemp . Accessorize with mini pumpkins, berries, fall leaves or wood cutouts for a look that incorporates the elements of fall. For the mantle and other surfaces, look to the natural options around you. Carve a pumpkin or decorate the outside with a cloth hat and a painted-on face. Similarly, carve out apples and use them as candle votives. Glass is another fantastic decor material that produces light and color in fun ways. Use paint to decorate canning jars, or fill them with LED lights to use as centerpieces or hanging decor around the pergola. Use glass platters or bowls to display your spooky collection of ceramic witches combined with pine cones. If you already have plastic items in your home, get as much life out of them as you can. It’s more damaging to trash them while they’re still useful than to reuse them. Just replace items with plastic-free options when the time comes. Party items Halloween parties are a fun and festive way to celebrate the holiday. But make sure your celebration honors the planet with plastic-free options that everyone can enjoy. Pass on the plastic cups in favor of regular glassware, and provide dishware and silverware. If you don’t have enough dishes, elect for paper plates over Styrofoam or plastic. For a silverware shortage, try planning your meal around finger-foods instead. Serving delectable, utensil-free meals saves on both garbage and cleanup. For games, go with the traditional bobbing for apples or pinning the (paper) hat on the (cardboard) witch. Food and candy A quick visit to Pinterest will provide a ghastly number of finger-food appetizers that require no plastic to make or serve. But you might find it challenging to purchase food without the plastic component. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good option. Create hot dog or sausage mummies by wrapping them with strips of croissant dough. Make a scary taco dip with a spider web designed out of sour cream and use chips as your utensils. Of course, just about any sandwich or tortilla can be cut into the shape of a bat for an easy treat. Related: This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats For dessert, dish up brownies or pumpkin-shaped cookies, or fill candy bowls with bulk options rather than individually-wrapped treats. Trick-or-treating When it’s time to canvas the neighborhood, bypass the plastic pumpkin or bag. Instead, employ a reusable shopping bag or even a standard pillowcase to haul treats. You won’t be able to avoid the plastic that others hand out in their homes, but you can take charge in deciding what treats you give the goblins and superheroes that appear at your door. Stay away from plastic trinkets and give out wooden pencils, small books, reusable straws or friendship bracelets instead. Look for individually paper-wrapped candies to skirt the plastic waste. You can also offer homemade goodies, although many parents will pass on accepting them as a safety precaution. Small apples also make a waste-free option. Of course, you could avoid the “treat” portion altogether and perform your best joke, imitation or magic gag to fulfill the offered “trick” option instead. Halloween is a fun season full of parties and festivities. With a little forethought, it can be free of plastic, too. Images via Shutterstock

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EIT Food Marketplace disrupts the industry with additive-free beverages, veggie milk and more

October 16, 2019 by  
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Earlier this month in Munich, new trends in sustainable food were featured at the annual Food Marketplace event hosted by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) . The future of food appears to emphasize clean, sustainable eating that boosts personal and planetary health. The EIT Food Marketplace serves as a venue for innovators to pitch their game-changing or disruptive ideas in front of investors and corporate partners to accelerate market entry. The recent event hosted 25 invited startups from across Europe. New ideas that were proposed by these startups included a new vegetable milk , a software that targets healthier nutrition and diets for hospital patients as well as fruit chips for breakfast cereal made from discarded bananas. Related: Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries Ultimately, this year’s winner was “Air up Gmbh” for its innovative bottle, from which mineral water is sipped through a straw. “Taste” is given to the mineral water by aromatic sponges in the lid that provide a “pretend” taste, free of artificial flavors. As Air up Gmbh CEO and founder Jannis Koppitz explained, “While you suck through the straw and drink at the same time, our palate communicates the mix then as the taste. Thanks to the replaceable aroma sponges, this can be anything from mango to lime to cucumber.” In other words, with this method, drinks of the future will need no additives nor sugar, thereby providing a revolutionized, healthier beverage to quench one’s thirst. “In terms of healthy nutrition and new techniques, we want to offer a platform with a lot of publicity to young junior researchers. It is the responsibility of EIT Food, on behalf of the EU and as a transformer, to make the food system fit for the future with the help of innovations,” said Dr. Georg Schirrmacher, director of EIT Food in Germany. “ Sustainability , healthy nutrition and new ways of training at universities are crucial factors. But each and every one of us can help transform the food system worldwide with well-considered decisions on what to buy and what to eat.” Thanks to this year’s successful Food Marketplace, another is scheduled for next year. EIT Food, after all, strives to achieve its strategic agenda of “creating consumer-valued food for healthier nutrition, enhanced sustainability through resource stewardship and supportive food entrepreneurship” by integrating education, business creation and innovation. + EIT Food Image via Aline Ponce

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Old bus is converted into a mobile greenhouse to teach students about sustainable eating habits

October 15, 2019 by  
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Sometimes, a little hands-on education goes a very long way when it comes to instilling sustainable and healthy eating habits in children. Parents in New Jersey are rejoicing thanks to a refurbished bus that is on a mission to educate young students on a variety of food education issues, from better eating habits to urban gardening. Designed by Tessellate Studio , the Mobile Food Lab is a 300-square-foot bus that has been customized with a built-in greenhouse, classroom science lab and art exhibit space. Working in collaboration with Reed Foundation , Tessellate Studio designed the bus to offer customized space for sustainable food education for the New Jersey area. Inside the Mobile Food Lab, students will find a hydroponic garden that grows sustainable veggies, fruit and herbs as well as space to conduct food experiments. There’s even an art studio. Related: Toronto’s converted veggie bus brings produce to food desert areas To make space for the educational activities, which welcome up to 30 students at a time, the converted bus is divided into three zones. The central area is “the social zone,” which is comprised of skylights and 4,000 feet of rope that is hung from the ceiling to create a nest-like sanctuary. This space was designed to facilitate conversation and brainstorming. The next area is for cooking and consists of a lush, hydroponic garden. In this space, students can learn the ins and outs of urban gardening , while also using the adjacent food preparation area that includes a stove top, sink and cutting service. Moving farther along the bus, students will find a fun food science area. This space comes complete with digital microscopes, LCD monitor, test tubes of herbs and spices and a “taste” chart, with which students can learn the science of taste. At the end of the mobile lab, there is an arts area tucked into a small nook. This section was customized to store two foldable carts that can be wheeled off the bus to create additional space for arts and crafts activities. According to the studio, the bus was strategically designed to “help children develop a healthy connection to food by harnessing their innate curiosity through a multi-sensory experience of smell, sight, touch and taste. The MFL uses food as the medium to teach a curriculum of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).” Launched in September 2018, the Mobile Food Lab has set up its sustainable food education bus in a number of areas throughout New Jersey, including schools, parks and various public events. In fact, the project has been so successful since its inception that the lab has earned a runner-up award in the Social Impact category of the Core77 Design Awards . + Tessellate Studio + The Mobile Lab Via Core77 Images via Mobile Food Lab

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NYC bans processed meats served in public schools

October 8, 2019 by  
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In an effort to improve the Big Apple’s public health, all processed meats will no longer be offered at New York City public school and public university cafeterias. That means no pepperoni, bacon, cold-cut deli meats, sausages or hot dogs for lunch. The new ban follows on the heels of the city’s successful test-run across all city schools of Meatless Mondays. Policymakers and education officials say the decision to adopt Resolution 238 is thanks to scientific evidence linking disease and other ailments with red and processed meats . The move paves the way to healthier food choices, minimizing any associated health risks. Related: Meatless Mondays are coming to public schools in New York City Over the years, the World Health Organization has warned that processed meats are carcinogenic, increase the likelihood of obesity and pre-diabetes among children and teens and elevate risk factors associated with heart disease, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer rates among young adults. But these conditions, researchers say, are preventable through dietary and lifestyle changes. Similarly, the National Cancer Institute announced that young people of today exhibit double to quadruple the risks of colorectal cancers, when compared to those of the 1950s. Why? Sadly, today’s youth have diets low in fiber and high in processed meats, exacerbated by lifestyles lacking in physical activity . Even more worrisome, studies have shown just one hot dog or two bacon strips per day increases colorectal cancer risks by 18 percent. “We cannot continue feeding our children substances scientifically proven to increase cancer later in life,” said Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams. “Chicken nuggets and sloppy joes are in the same class of substances as cigarettes. We know that we would never give our children cigarettes to smoke, so there’s absolutely no reason why we should continue poisoning our children’s health with processed foods .” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics affirms that those following plant-based diets show lower rates of health complications than their omnivorous counterparts. In other words, curbing unhealthy meat consumption and removing processed meats from school menus is a positive change for students’ health. By offering more nutritious meals on public school campuses, from preschool through university, all NYC students can be better nourished, likely boosting academic performance and overall well-being. In September 2018, the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) became the first school district in the country to remove processed meats from all school lunch lines. This recent ban in such a large metropolitan area shows that the move toward providing plant-based alternatives for more nutritious school meals is gaining momentum. + Resolution 238 Via TreeHugger Image via Shutterstock

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Sail your cares away in this incredible floating villa near Sydney

October 8, 2019 by  
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Nothing says romance like floating down a calm waterway while taking in the sound of bird calls from the shores. If you’re in the mood for a romantic getaway near Sydney , this incredible floating villa is the perfect choice. The tiny retreat features enough space for two lovebirds, who can spend their days watching the world go by from a glorious open-air deck. Ready to set sail along the pristine coastline of Palm Beach, New South Wales, this beautiful, two-story floating villa makes for a dream glamping retreat. The structure is compact but comes with a stunning, modern design that makes the space seem much bigger. Related: Sail away from it all in this gorgeous floating tiny home The interior of the floating home features a large living area on the first floor that opens up to the structure’s most impressive space, the outdoor deck. From here, guests can enjoy stunning views of the cliffs and wild landscapes found along the coast of Palm Beach. The deck comes with plenty of seating space and a barbecue, where you can cook shrimp on the, well, you know. Throughout the interior, guests will feel right at home thanks to contemporary furnishings and amenities. The living space welcomes in plenty of natural light through various windows and the folding glass doors that open up to the deck . The living area even comes with a nice fireplace for those chilly nights. A compact bathroom nearby includes a full-sized shower and toiletries. Additionally, the home comes with a kitchenette, which comes with all of the basics to whip up a tasty meal: an oven, a stove, a microwave and a fridge. The master bedroom is located on the sleeping loft, accessible via a narrow staircase. The pitched roof adds extra vertical space for the bedroom, which comes with a plush, king-sized bed and quality linens. Guests to the tiny villa will enjoy a healthy breakfast each morning as well as a 24-hour concierge service. For active travelers, the accommodation also comes with the use of the stand-up paddleboards and fishing gear. + Glamping Hub Images via Glamping Hub

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Sail your cares away in this incredible floating villa near Sydney

Africa’s first sustainable chocolate brand plans to sell in the US

October 7, 2019 by  
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While Africa grows 70 percent of the world’s cacao, very little chocolate is made on the continent. Instead, most of the raw material is shipped to other countries that then produce delicious chocolates. But De Villiers Chocolate is now working on becoming the first African-made, sustainably sourced chocolate brand available in the U.S. “Once we discovered the cocoa beans of the vibrant Bundibugyo region in Uganda , we began to realize the potential of the journey we had embarked upon,” said Pieter de Villiers, CEO and master chocolatier at De Villiers Chocolate. “It became our mission to create a chocolate brand true to its origin and the exotic taste of Africa .” Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa De Villiers Chocolate currently sells its products at its studio on a historic Cape Dutch estate, online and through an upmarket grocery chain in South Africa. Now, De Villiers Chocolate has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000 to help bring its chocolate to the U.S. From humble origins in a garage 10 years ago, De Villiers Chocolate has now grown into a Capetown, South Africa-based business producing chocolate, ice cream and coffee in South Africa’s Cape Winelands region. The cocoa and coffee qualify for three voluntary sustainable standards: Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ . De Villiers ethically sources all ingredients. It does not use palm oil, for the health of rainforests and the planet in general. It does not add artificial flavors, colorants, stabilizers, preservatives or hydrogenated vegetable oils to its chocolate. The company uses unrefined brown sugar as a sweetener, and the De Villiers dark chocolate is vegan. In a press release, De Villiers noted that Africans have not historically profited much from chocolate, despite the fact that most of the world’s cacao crop is grown there. “So how does Africa achieve sustainability ? Not by charity; charity to Africa is not sustainable. The only truly long-term endeavor is to facilitate and allow Africans to do it for themselves,” the press release reads. Through its sustainable sourcing and mission-driven products, De Villiers Chocolate is trying to put Africa on the map as a home to world-renowned chocolate artisans. + De Villiers Chocolate Image via De Villiers Chocolate

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

October 7, 2019 by  
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The University of Malaga in Spain will soon be home to a high-tech campus that will redefine the urban fabric with digital connectivity and renewable energy systems. Designed by Ecosistema Urbano to regenerate the underused Louis Pasteur Boulevard area, the project will not only enhance the city’s infrastructure, but it will also create new spaces where everyday university activities, including classes, can take place in public areas. Spanning a total surface area of 52 acres, the Malaga University Campus planning project will improve the climatic comfort and digital connectivity of currently underused public spaces. The plan targets four main strategies: a Connected Campus strategy for opening the university to its urban surroundings; a Green Campus strategy that seeks to create, restore and enhance existing green space; an Interactive Campus strategy that will allow users to visualize real-time information and manipulate physical aspects of public space with technology; and an Open Campus strategy to make educational meeting spaces and devices in the public areas available for use by both students and local citizens. Using a network of sensors and interactive technologies, the outdoor spaces can be manipulated to support both educational and playful programming, as well as improved outdoor comfort that can be enhanced with solar-powered climate conditioning systems. Related: Ecosistema Urbano’s amazing LED Energy Carousel is powered by play “One of the key aspects of this project is its commitment to using technology as a way of improving the interaction between people and the environment,” explained the architects, who were inspired by the smart cities approach. “It will be the first public space that users can control through an application. In parallel with the construction of the project, the official UMA app will be extended with open source modules that will allow access to an augmented environment of interactivity and information.” To reduce the environmental footprint of the project, the architects have proposed installing photovoltaic panels to power the campus’ bioclimatic conditioning systems, such as evaporative cooling and geothermal air circulation. Passive bioclimatic strategies will also be used, including shading elements like green walls and sculptural canopies. The first construction phase, which covers 17 acres, is planned for December 2020. + Ecosistema Urbano Images via Ecosistema Urbano

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Ecosistema Urbano designs a digitally integrated eco-campus for the University of Malaga

How to grow your own pumpkins

October 4, 2019 by  
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Fall is the time of year when we pull out the sweaters and boots, add a jacket to our attire and immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin. From creamer to donuts to home decor , pumpkins represent autumn from when the first leaf falls to long after the Thanksgiving dishes have been dried and put away. Of course, there is also the age-old practice of carving pumpkins for Halloween. While every supermarket has mounds of pumpkins ready for purchase, with a little planning you can grow and harvest your own pumpkins for everything from jack-o’-lanterns to pumpkin bread. Plan ahead By the time October hits, all you can really do is plan for next year’s garden (which is a great idea!). Seeds should go into the ground between the end of May and mid-July, depending on where you live. Be sure you don’t plant too early in the season. Although the plants will thrive and produce fruit happily throughout the late summer and early fall, you may find yourself with rotten fruit before the pumpkin-carving party if they ripen months beforehand. Provide space Pumpkin plants ramble. In fact, they will take over and may cause problems if confined, so give them a dedicated area to thrive. This is not a plant that will be successful on an apartment balcony. Allow them ample room to bush out without running into other garden crops, outbuildings or fencing. For planning purposes, set aside around 9-10 feet in each direction for each mound of plants (around 100 square feet). Related: How to cook a whole pumpkin (seeds, guts and all) Mound it up Rounded mounds of soil provide the drainage and depth pumpkins need to thrive. Pumpkin seeds and vines are finicky, so you don’t want to handle or transplant them once they are in soil . To avoid disturbing them, make sure your mounds are established before planting. Set them at least 5-6 feet apart from each other. Let it shine When choosing the location for your pumpkin mounds, select a space that receives a lot of sunlight . Pumpkin seeds don’t do well in cold soil or dirt that is too wet. They prefer a warm environment, so choose your selection with that in mind. Choose preferred varieties There are many varieties of pumpkins, some that look more like squash in shape and color. In fact, many people use the labels squash and pumpkin interchangeably. There are also a variety of sizes, from small decorative options to giant, 100-pound versions. Choose your seeds well to match the space you have available. Related: How to cook and enjoy 10 types of squash other than pumpkin Make them share Pumpkins grow well in clusters. To find the strongest plants, plant five or six seeds per mound. Seeds should be pressed into the soil about one inch deep and lightly covered. Once they are well-established, thin to the healthiest two to three plants per mound. Each plant will produce multiple pumpkins . You can see the potential when the plants bloom flowers. Soon, each of those flowers will have a pumpkin behind it beginning to form. Be mindful though — only female flowers produce fruit. The male flowers bloom briefly, giving bees an opportunity to find the flowering vines. Then, they drop off the plant. Female flowers, however, will show the bulb of the green emerging fruit behind them. Keep the weeds out Weeds can choke out the productivity of your pumpkin plants, so keep them at bay by frequently checking for new growth and removing them early on. A hoe works well for this task to avoid the back and knee strain from getting on the ground. Try not to dig too deep, which could interfere with the roots of the pumpkin plants. Avoid harmful weed killers anywhere near your plants (and preferably your entire yard). Applying mulch to pumpkin plants will help keep the weeds away and hold the moisture in. Stick to a watering schedule Pumpkins are fairly forgiving of a little neglect when it comes to water , as long as they have a chance to get established with reliable drinks. Give them a drink at least once each week, saturating the soil around the base of each plant while avoiding leaves and fruit wherever possible. In the beginning though, avoid flooding the seed and seedlings as they become established. Instead, give them shallow drinks. Schedule an extra watering if the weather is extreme during the early summer growing season. Growing care You won’t have to dote on your growing pumpkins too frequently. Given the right location, soil and temperature, they are pretty self-sufficient. If you are planning to use your pumpkins for carving, you may want to gently rotate them occasionally. This will help avoid pumpkins with a flat side and help them grow into a more uniform shape; however, the vines are persnickety, so use caution or the vine may be damaged. Tip: Set each pumpkin on a piece of cardboard and gently rotate it every few weeks for even heat and light. Harvest Your pumpkins will likely be ready to harvest during the last two weeks of September. They are ready when the stem is firm and the pumpkin turns from green to deep orange. Cut the stem carefully as most have sharp prickles. Use gloves and a sharp blade. Leave around 3-4 inches of stem attached to the pumpkin. You can leave the pumpkin attached to the vine, or cut it and leave it outside. However, if freezing weather is coming, cut your pumpkins and store them in a cool, dry location. Use as soon as possible for decor or your favorite recipe . Images via James Wheeler , Waldo Jaquith , Austin Kirk and K. Sayer

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Repurposed coffee grounds provide sustainable clothing pigment alternative

September 27, 2019 by  
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Scientists from Iowa State University (ISU) recently unveiled a natural alternative to synthetic clothing pigment. This natural alternative is sourced from brewed coffee grounds. The research team , spearheaded by ISU Assistant Professor Chunhui Xiang and graduate student Changhyun “Lyon” Nam, found a possible alternative via repurposed coffee grounds. Rather than adding to landfill density and single-use waste, brewed coffee grounds can instead be transformed into another high-value resource. Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy Brewed coffee grounds are feasible because 100 million Americans drink coffee daily, meaning there is an adequate supply of coffee grounds that can be upcycled and diverted away from landfills. Shades of brown can be extracted from the coffee grounds, then bound to various textiles and fabrics. Of course, there remain the quandaries of fading and of replicating consistent hues. While the use of pigment fixative helps to bind the color to the fabric and reduce fading, producing consistent hues that can match a template proves to be more complex. More research is required before repurposed coffee grounds can be ready for mass-production of pigments.  “One disadvantage is that it’s hard to measure the quantity needed to get the same color,” Xiang explained. “There may be a difference in the type of beans, or maybe the coffee was brewed twice. Creating an exact match is a challenge, especially for manufacturers.” However, Xiang asserted that hue consistency can be overcome by changing consumer attitudes. If consumers are able to reframe their interests so that they accept the uniqueness of colors rather than demand their consistency, then repurposed coffee grounds, as a sustainable source, can be a worthwhile commercial venture. Historically, textile hues were originally sourced from plants and minerals.  But industrialization forced the textile sector to turn to synthetics, because laboratories could produce them at cheaper cost. Over time, these synthetics have become less and less environmentally friendly. Because the textile industry utilizes upward of 2 million tons of chemicals for its synthetic pigments, there has been a growing movement in today’s society to find more sustainable sources, such as repurposed coffee grounds. + Taylor and Francis Online Via Phys.org Image via Couleur

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