Pandora announces switch to lab-grown diamonds

May 5, 2021 by  
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Jewelry giant Pandora announced it will move away from mined diamonds and instead use sustainably made, lab-grown diamonds. Thanks to millennial shopping trends of caring about the environment and not believing it’s necessary to sink two months’ salary into a diamond ring, the time is right. “ Diamonds are not only forever, but for everyone,” said Pandora Chief Executive Alexander Lacik, as reported by Reuters. Many more people will be able to afford the new collection, keeping their finances intact while skipping the guilty conscience. Related: Aether makes diamonds out of dirty air To grow diamonds in its labs, the Danish company will heat a hydrocarbon gas mixture to 1,427° Fahrenheit (800° Celsius). Carbon atoms will adhere to small seed diamonds and, layer by layer, grow into beautiful, brilliant crystals. As technology has improved, the price has fallen so that now lab-grown diamonds can be as low as one-tenth the cost to produce as mined diamonds. Then there’s the environmental costs. Cubic zirconia puts less than 0.01% the wear and tear on the planet as compared to mined diamonds, according to a study by Trucost, an environmental consultancy. Per carat, cubic zirconia requires 5,000 times less CO2 and 3,000 times less water than mined diamonds. Add in the human rights toll of mined diamonds — forced labor, physical and sexual abuse, unsanitary housing — and, for many consumers, the price is too high. Pandora manufactured 85 million pieces of jewelry last year. It sold 50,000 diamonds, which, until now, the company has bought from KGK Diamonds. Pandora plans to sell the mined diamonds already in its store showcases, then complete the move to lab-grown stones created in North America and Europe. The new Pandora Brilliance collection featuring lab-created diamonds debuts in the U.K. this year. The sparkly stones are chemically identical to their mined counterparts, look just as good and have CarbonNeutral® product certification. All greenhouse gas emissions associated with the stones are calculated and then offset by donations to a carbon finance project. So far, the lab stones have been powered by 60% renewable energy . Pandora is aiming for 100% by next year, when it plans to launch its new collection of lab-grown diamonds globally. + Pandora Via Reuters Image via Pandora

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Can paint eat smog? Volkswagen thinks so.

April 26, 2021 by  
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People in cities like  London , Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Bristol may notice a new series of Volkswagen ads being painted on exterior walls of buildings. Is it possible that the air seems just a little fresher when walking by the new ads? When Volkswagen announced it was using a sci-fi-sounding, smog-eating paint on its  U.K.  billboards, the reaction was mixed. Is this notoriously eco-unfriendly company turning over a new leaf? Do they really care now? And does the paint really work, or does it cause more harm than good? Related: This “super plant” can actually absorb air pollution Past scandals Let’s time travel back to the “diesel dupe” of 2015. VW was busted big time when the public found out about some shady software in diesel engines that came to be known as the “defeat device.” This gizmo detected when the  car  was being tested and suddenly was on its best behavior. The engine ran below its normal level during the test. But post-exam, it cranked up and spewed up to 40 times above the amount of nitrogen oxide pollutants allowed by U.S. law. When caught,  VW  leaders were contrite. They admitted they’d screwed up and vowed to win back public trust. They launched an internal inquiry and set aside billions to cover the cost of recalling millions of cars worldwide. And now, the paint used in their advertising eats smog. Meet the paint A couple of different projects have been working on smog-eating paint, including ENERPAINT and Airlite. The idea behind ENERPAINT is to refurbish old historical  houses , which are usually energy inefficient. VW is using Airlite paint for its ad campaigns.  “The purpose of Airlite was to create something that makes a difference to human  health  and well-being in the built environment,” said Chris Leighton, VP of sales and marketing at AM Technology, the company responsible for  Airlite paint . In addition to eating smog, Airlite allegedly repels dirt, removes bad odors and kills mold, viruses and bacteria. “The basic principle is photocatalysis, a reaction that happens in the earth’s atmosphere,” said Leighton. This natural reaction breaks down pollutants. The early experiments were promising. In 2007, Rome’s Traforo Umberto I tunnel was thoroughly cleaned before getting a coat of the smog-eating paint. “ Pollution  levels reduced in the tunnel after the renovation,” said Leighton. A month after the tunnel’s makeover, the nitrogen oxide levels dropped 20% in the center of the tunnel. Since then, schools, offices, airports, hospitals and homes have all been painted with Airlite. Street artists even created Europe’s first smog-eating mural on a seven-story building in Rome. The paint is also good for cooling indoor spaces during hot  weather . When the sun hits the building, the heat reflects off, saving on air conditioning emissions and bills. How does paint eat smog? If you’re still wondering how it works, read on. According to manufacturer claims, the titanium dioxide crystals in Airlite break down chemical substances when the paint is exposed to humidity and light. Sunlight stimulates titanium dioxide. Electrons are released to water vapor molecules, transforming them into free radicals which react with pollutants like NOx and change them into harmless substances. About 20% of NOx in the air could be neutralized by painted surfaces. Instead of using the volatile  organic  compounds generally found in paint, Airlite started with a calcium base — a byproduct from an Italian marble processing site. To use the paint — which comes in powdered form — you just mix it with water. Mixed results It sounds awesome! But is it? Some  scientists  have their doubts, even saying the paint can do more harm than good. A  study  published in 2017 in Environmental Science: Nano concluded that while photocatalytic paints effectively decompose some pollutants, they unfortunately generate and release different toxic compounds. “Photocatalytic paints are an excellent example of a treatment technology using sustainable energy as they only require sunlight or ambient lighting to work,” said Delphine Truffier-Boutry from Grenoble Alps University in France, who worked on the study. “However, the issues presented here challenge the usefulness of the titanium dioxide-based photocatalytic paints as a remediation technology to improve urban and indoor air quality. Lots of effort is needed to make this technology viable for air quality improvement.” The scientists tested the titanium dioxide nanoparticles’ effectiveness at eliminating volatile organic compounds from the  air  by introducing xylene. Sure enough, the paint eliminated the xylene. But unfortunately, it released other toxic nanoparticles, including formaldehyde. More study is warranted, especially before you paint the  inside  of your house with this stuff. Other VW eco measures Despite the jury still being out on smog-eating paint, Volkswagen seems sincere in its new eco-efforts. They’ve worked on offsetting their vehicle delivery emissions by supporting climate protection projects, such as Borneo reforestation. The automaker has also beefed up its charging station network for Great Britain’s  electric vehicles  by partnering with Tesco. Now, more than 250 Tescos are equipped with Pod Point charging stations. The VW campaign is also employing  artists . It takes about three to six days for an artist to paint the VW ads, which will likely be on display in U.K. cities for roughly a month. Via BBC , Clean Technica , Horizon and Chemistry World

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Can paint eat smog? Volkswagen thinks so.

Earth911 Podcast: 3R Technology’s Charles Brennick on Recycling Computers & Smartphones

April 23, 2021 by  
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Earth911’s Mitch Ratcliffe talks with Charles Brennick, director of Business Development and eCommerce at Seattle-based… The post Earth911 Podcast: 3R Technology’s Charles Brennick on Recycling Computers & Smartphones appeared…

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The Search for Sustainable Tuna

April 23, 2021 by  
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World Tuna Day is May 2. It sounds kind of silly to have an observance… The post The Search for Sustainable Tuna appeared first on Earth911.

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Blue X is a new, wave energy-harvesting prototype

April 22, 2021 by  
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Mocean Energy, a U.K.-based wave power company, has unveiled Blue X, a machine prototype that will be used to harvest tidal energy . The prototype was unveiled on Wednesday, April 21 in a ceremony at the Forth Ports’ Rosyth Docks. Weighing 38 metric tons and measuring 20 meters long, the prototype will be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre’s Scapa Flow site for trials. If the trials go according to plan, the machine will be moved to the EMEC’s Billia Croo testing site for large-scale trials. The testing program is being supported by Wave Energy Scotland (WES), a body set up by the Scottish government to oversee the development of wave energy. WES is pumping a whopping £3.3 million ($4.56 million) into the project through its Novel Wave Energy Converter program. It is expected that the Blue X machine will be connected to an underwater battery next year and will be used to power a remote-controlled underwater vehicle. Related: Tasmanian island to be powered by wave energy “Against the backdrop of COVID-19 restrictions Mocean Energy and their subcontractors have completed build of the prototype,” said Tim Hurst, WES managing director. “The focus is now on commissioning and the learning to be gained from the open water test campaign.” The Scottish government has been committed to reversing climate change and has already implemented measures to achieve its targets. The country has ambitious targets of reducing carbon emission by 75% by 2030. Through its  Climate Change Plan , the government is supporting technologies like Blue X to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. “We are extremely fortunate to have the backing of Wave Energy Scotland, OGTC and our industry partners in this programme,” Cameron McNatt, managing director of Mocean Energy, said. “They bring an extraordinary amount of knowledge and experience which we can draw on to accelerate our technology development ambitions.” The machine was entirely fabricated in Scotland, according to McNatt. Fife fabricator AJS Production was at the heart of the hardware fabrication while Montrose-based Rybay Corrosion services did the painting work. Through the WES program, several other Scottish companies were involved in the engineering and design works. According to Mocean Energy, tidal energy could power 50 million homes and cut 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year just by using 1% of all available wave energy globally. + Mocean Energy Image via Mocean Energy

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Save the Earth IRL by playing Pokmon Go during Sustainability Week

April 22, 2021 by  
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When Pokémon was first introduced in the 1990s, people wouldn’t have expected the fanciful creatures to care about the environment. But the Pocket Monsters, as they’re known in Japan, live alongside humans in the wild, so they, too, have a stake in sustainability and global warming. Nintendo recognizes that vested interest with Sustainability Week, Pokémon Go’s latest event, inspired by the goal of safeguarding our planet. For those who haven’t played Pokémon Go, here’s a little background; the augmented reality game uses a free app and GPS to turn your phone into a pocket monster-catcher. The virtual creatures take the shapes of dragons, dinosaurs, snakes, rats and even swords and eggs and are deceptively powerful. As you and your phone move around, different Pokémon suddenly appear onscreen. You, as a human, are called a “trainer” and have the ability to catch and tame these creatures and then make them fight each other. You might capture Pokémon as you’re riding the subway to work or taking a bathroom break. Related: Newly released video game challenges players to survive the climate apocalypse Pokémon Go is a partnership between Nintendo, Pokémon’s original maker, and Niantic, a San Francisco-based designer of augmented reality games. Pokémon Go’s Sustainability Week is linked with the Niantic Sustainability Campaign to protect the environment and raise awareness of global warming . The event runs from April 20-25, coinciding with Earth Day on April 22. Throughout Sustainability Week, trainers will perform a variety of field research tasks. All must be completed during Sustainability Week if players want to keep their Pokémon Go rewards. Aficionados are excited about the release of two new Pokémon: Binacle and Barbaracle. If trainers get 50 Binacle candies, it evolves to a Barbaracle. “There are also two new shiny forms available during Sustainability Week,” according to The Gamer . “Everyone’s favorite trash Pokemon, Trubbish and Garbodor, will be available in their shiny variants throughout the week. Catch shiny Trubbish in the wild and evolve it to get the shiny Garbodor.” Sustainability Week also has real world components. Players will earn in-game rewards for picking up trash, planting trees , walking instead of driving and volunteering with local environmental agencies. To get credit for doing good, players need to post a picture and description on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #SustainableWithNiantic and tag @NianticLabs. + Pokémon Go Live Via Eurogamer and Vox Image via Pokémon Go

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Barrels of toxic DDT discovered off the coast of California

April 15, 2021 by  
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David Valentine, a marine scientist at the University of California, has discovered barrels of DDT on the ocean floor just 10 miles off the coast of Southern California . Valentine had long suspected the presence of toxic contamination in this area, but his attempts to get help from government agencies have been futile. However, his recent discovery has government institutions and leaders showing interest. DDT was discovered in 1939 and widely used as a pesticide until the 1960s, when it was found to be toxic. It was established that eating foods contaminated with DDT leads the substance to build in human tissue, resulting in negative long-term effects. The chemical was banned in the United States in 1972. Related: Fukushima nuclear power plant to release contaminated water into ocean To the shock of many, some of the barrels discovered were buried in the ocean under government approval. Montrose Chemical Corporation, the largest company producing DDT in the U.S. in the 1940s to 1980s, was allowed to dump some of its waste into storm drains while the rest of the waste was loaded into barrels and sent off into the ocean, close to Catalina Island. Valentine’s discovery is not the first finding of DDT dumped in the ocean. In 1996, a shallow toxic site just 2 miles from the Rancho Palos Verde beaches was discovered. Montrose Chemical Corporation was sued and settled for a $140 million fine. Some of the money was given to the EPA and NOAA to rehabilitate the region. While Valentine and his team have only researched a small area so far, they have managed to capture video of the leaking barrels and have spotted 60 barrels in a short time span. Samples collected from the ocean floor have registered as having high contamination, with one containing 40 times more toxicity than the most contaminated sample from the 1996 discovery. While the contamination does not pose any risk to humans swimming in the water, it has an effect on the health of marine life. The  Marine Mammal Center  in California has published a 30-year-old  study  indicating that 25% of sea lions suffer from cancer. DDT is believed to be the culprit. + Environmental Science & Technology Via CBS Images via Environmental Science & Technology and Sabrina Eickhoff

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Barrels of toxic DDT discovered off the coast of California

The Catalytic Coalition: Eliminating the Worst Greenhouse Gases Ever Made

April 14, 2021 by  
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The Catalytic Coalition: Eliminating the Worst Greenhouse Gases Ever Made Date/Time: May 4, 2021 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT) According to Project Drawdown, adopting end of life strategies for old refrigerants (e.g., CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs) will prevent the release of 57.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) into the atmosphere. According to a recent MIT study, emissions from the remaining stocks of CFCs alone is equivalent to 9 gigatons of CO2. These gases will leak into the atmosphere unless they are identified, collected and destroyed. Vast amounts of old refrigerants are deployed in chillers and cooling systems. Invariably, large corporations with a portfolio of facilities and refrigerated processes or supply chains will have significant volumes of these gases under their custody and control. Without even realizing it, companies are stewards of these potent GHGs which are at risk of being released into the atmosphere. The webcast will shine a light on this problem, explore opportunities to address it, and illustrate the vital role companies can play. In this hour-long webcast, you’ll learn: Why refrigerant management is a necessary and vital strategy for preventing the climate crisis. The scope of the refrigerant problem that we are facing globally. How companies can provide leadership to address this problem by converting high GWP cooling systems to low GWP systems. How solving the problem will create energy and operational efficiencies. How commitments from major corporations can address this problem at scale. How carbon markets, and a commitment to carbon offsetting, are necessary to drive this work.  Moderator: Shana Rappaport, Senior Vice President & Executive Director, VERGE, GreenBiz Group Speakers: Kirsten Love, Director, Market Development, Tradewater Jonathan Foley, Executive Director, Project Drawdown Megan Lickley, Post Doctoral Associate, Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sean Kinghorn, Global Sustainability Leader, Intuit If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. taylor flores Wed, 04/14/2021 – 15:07 Shana Rappaport Senior Vice President & Executive Director, VERGE GreenBiz Group @ShanaRappaport Kirsten Love Director, Market Development Tradewater Jonathan Foley Executive Director Project Drawdown @GlobalEcoGuy Megan Lickley Post Doctoral Associate, Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sean Kinghorn Sustainability Leader Intuit @Intuit gbz_webcast_date Tue, 05/04/2021 – 10:00 – Tue, 05/04/2021 – 11:00

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Do we really need to mine the deep seas to power EVs?

April 12, 2021 by  
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While more and more cities plan an end to sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels and car manufacturers announce goals to go all electric, there’s a major complication. Where will all the metal for EV batteries come from? Some companies are looking toward deep-sea mining, which could have a whole new set of dire consequences. “These spaces out in the high seas, which include undersea mountain ranges, are really quite biodiverse and they’re full of very unique species,” said Douglas McCauley, director of UC Santa Barbara’s Benioff Ocean Initiative. “Many species are still unknown to scientists, and some have been newly identified.” Related: Cobalt-free batteries will make EVs more affordable For instance, there’s a newly found white octopus species, as well as black corals that live for thousands of years and the sea pangolin , which has the unwanted distinction of being the first marine species assessed as officially endangered, thanks to deep-sea mining. The need for lithium -ion batteries to power all these promised EVs may be the sticking point that thwarts the whole electrified future. A 2019 study determined that lithium demand could outrun supply by next year. Cobalt and nickel, other crucial battery components, may also be running low within a decade. “Cobalt is the metal of most concern for supply risks as it has highly concentrated production and reserves, and batteries for EVs are expected to be the main end-use of cobalt in only a few years,” according to a study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. China is claiming most of the world’s cobalt , which is mined primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The global lithium supply is concentrated in Chile, Australia and Argentina. In addition to the negative environmental impacts of this mining, there are also major concerns over human rights abuses. Businesspeople are turning to areas beyond national jurisdiction in the high seas. The International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental body, has already approved 28 mining contracts totaling more than 1 million square kilometers. Investors are getting excited about profits. One deep-sea mining group expects to have a $2.9 billion market value once it goes public. Environmentalists aren’t happy about putting profits over sea pangolins; neither are some manufacturers. BMW and Volvo have both come out against deep sea mining. “There are a lot of conversations about the real risks and unanswered questions about ocean mining,” McCauley said. “There’s now more than 90 NGOs that have come out and said that we need a moratorium on ocean mining and we shouldn’t be sprinting to do this until we are able to answer some of the serious questions about the impact of mining on ocean health.” Via The Revelator and Washington Post Image via Andrew Roberts

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Do we really need to mine the deep seas to power EVs?

Understanding NFTs and energy consumption

April 8, 2021 by  
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Non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) are the newest players in the cryptocurrency market, and their  environmental  impact may surprise you. What’s an NFT? Let me start by saying, I’m not a tech writer. I’m a sustainability writer. So, I’ll explain the best I can with the knowledge and tools I have.  At this point, you’ve probably heard about blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Ethereum is another cryptocurrency, and NFTs are part of its blockchain. In contrast to how Bitcoin, for example, can be traded like regular money, NFTs are assigned a unique ‘token’ that verifies one particular owner. It’s a little like the title of a car that shows the owner and the VIN of the vehicle. NFTs are non-fungible, which means they can’t be easily exchanged for a similar good in the way a bitcoin can be traded for another bitcoin. In this sense, it’s much like tangible art. If you own an original Rembrandt, you have unique ownership of the one-of-a-kind artwork. If you’ve seen recent headlines, digital artworks are the hot NFTs we’re talking about here. For example, according to  Christie’s Auction House , “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” by Beeple is the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house. It sold for $69.3 million. There are several other over-the-top examples of high-selling art in the digital realm. The bustling industry has flung open the door for emerging and established artists as another way to promote their work, especially when presented with the challenges of the pandemic.  So where does energy consumption come in? To get a sense of NFTs’  energy consumption , you’ll have to understand the process of how they’re bought and sold. Here’s a simplified version of how it all works. Let’s pretend you create a digital image of Snoopy dancing in the rain with an umbrella. To find your audience, you’ll need to get your work onto an online marketplace like OpenSea. Most of these sites use Ethereum, which verifies transactions through ‘mining.’ When an NFT is purchased, miners must compete to solve a block that results in your Snoopy artwork being the uniquely identifiable NFT the buyer wants. Miners are motivated to compete because the single person who solves the block first gets a commission for their work. All others who competed are out of luck, even though they consumed a huge amount of energy in their efforts.  How much energy? So, how much energy does this take? By current estimations, a single Ethereum transaction consumes 48.14 kWh. For comparison, that’s just over one and a half days of energy consumption within the standard U.S. household. Now, multiply that by thousands of transactions daily and you can see how NFTs’ energy consumption takes its toll. There are a few things to keep in mind here. As far as production and sales go, a single Ethereum transaction to purchase an NFT consumes less energy than making a t-shirt . Also, NFTs aren’t the only goods bought with Ethereum, so even if the art went elsewhere, there would still be transactions eating up energy. What may be more important to focus on is the impact of cryptocurrency in general. Some stats on Brightly.eco help bring this into focus explaining, “Bitcoin ‘mining’ already generates 38 million tons of CO2 per year, more than the carbon footprint of Slovakia .” Put in other terms, “The daily carbon footprint of Bitcoin is the equivalent of watching 57,000 hours of YouTube videos. And, its daily electricity usage is equivalent to the amount of power an average American household uses over the course of 25 days.” Shidan Gouran, co-founder of Gulf Pearl, a merchant bank in the blockchain sector, said one cryptocurrency transaction uses as much energy as more than 700,000 Visa transactions. To further illustrate his point, Gouran says, “Even if you take away carbon emissions, if we move Visa to the same system as Bitcoin, you would still heat the planet up by more than one-and-a-half degrees. Just the heat that the system would create would be unsustainable.” Possible changes ahead Now, here’s an important tidbit I skipped over earlier. The reason all the miners are competing for each transaction has to do with the way the system is set up. Currently, the ETH blockchain uses the competition-based “Proof of Work (PoW)” system, as explained above. But, there’s chatter about a move to a different system called, “Proof of Stake (PoS).” This system would randomly choose one person to solve the block, eliminating the competition and the copious energy consumed in the process. The result would be a  99% reduction  in energy consumed. Some are saying this new system could be implemented later this year or in 2022. There’s also the option to use a different chain besides Ethereum, then pick it back up when it’s moved to the PoS system. Furthermore, as more sources report on this energy consumption issue, some outlets are beginning to offer carbon offsets with each sale or purchase.  Via Brightly.eco , Loopify and Wired Images via Adobe Stock and Wikimedia Commons

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