Air Humidity: A New Source Of Electricity?

If all it takes to generate energy nowadays is a walk and a bit of sweat, it should come as no surprise that it’s also possible to create electricity out of thin air. Or, rather, air that is slightly humid.

[Biophysicist professor Ozgur Sahin’s] laboratory has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.

Shutters either opened or closed to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.

With technologies to convert wind, water, and heat into energy, it seems anything has the potential to do the same. As with anything in its early stages, researchers are treading carefully so as not to affect water resources. However, the machines may be a saving grace to drought-prone areas, as they reduce water loss.

“Some… regions suffer from periods of water stress and scarcity, which might favour implementation of these energy harvesting systems due to the reduction of evaporative losses.”

According to recent calculations, the technology could save 25 trillion gallons of water a year. It’s a godsend, considering how many people aren’t willing to give up hot, hourlong showers. It’s also a harsh reminder that we ought to do our part as consumers.

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Dubai Is Test-Flying A Two-Seater Taxi Drone

Since Margot Krasojevic’s conceptualization of the dragonfly bridge, it was only about time that flying vehicles came to light. Dubai is fast-tracking this reality, test-flying a two-seater taxi drone that transports passengers autonomously.

The [Autonomous Air Taxi] is environmentally friendly, powered by electricity, and the prototype version has a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, at a cruising speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), and a maximum airspeed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

As it would, the notion of a crew-less flying taxi may be somewhat petrifying. However, the AAT comes with emergency parachutes and batteries, so you can rest — or fly — easy. Developers also plan to create an accompanying booking app, much like Uber, but for the skies.

“Encouraging innovation and adopting the latest technologies contribute not only to the country’s development but also build bridges into the future,” Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said in a statement.

Dubai hopes that by 2030, 25% of transportation methods will be autonomous. With many organizations working towards a more efficient traveling system, there is much to look forward to in the future.

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Cosmetic Brand Lush Is Funding Permaculture Farms

Cosmetic brand Lush, known for its scrumptious bath bombs, is on a roll with its eco-initiatives. Since turning trash into packaging, it is also now funding permaculture farms at £1 million a year.

“For us, the work we focus on is often regenerative, as opposed to sustainable – we want to give back more than we take,”

The said permaculture farms provide the beauty brand with organic ingredients such as aloe and shea butter. While Lush can count on a stable supply of materials, it is also helping communities thrive.

“We started the fund in 2010, with the idea that there can be a different, more supportive way of doing business,” [says creative buyer Gabbi Loedolff.]

The initiative, called the SLush Fund, has reached out to groups in Ghana and Peru. It is creating jobs and providing new technologies while being mindful of the environment. On that note, I think a relaxing soak in the tub would be doing myself and Lush some good.

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Algae Structure Produces Crucial Superfood

Algae has been making rounds in the fashion world as part of a running shoe. But beyond a sustainable footwear material, it’s also a crucial superfood — and this algae structure produces it.

The Algae Dome is a four-meter-high… pavilion that houses a photo-bioreactor, a closed system primed to produce microalgae at high quantities.

In just three days, the dome is capable of producing 450 liters of algae. It’s ultimate goal is to call attention to the product’s high nutritional value and unique characteristics.

Not only is algae rich in nutrients, containing twice as much protein as meat, it’s also packed with vitamins and minerals like iron.

Hear that, filet mignon? You’ve got competition. Being the fastest-growing plant species, various industries ought to pay more attention to the green gem. It can even grow in polluted water, which is practical in this day and age. Looks like a brighter future could be in store for us, thanks to this unexpected savior.

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Bloomberg Campaigns To Retire Coal Plants

Carbon calculators, among other methods, are helping individuals reduce harmful footprints on the planet. But due to the Trump administration’s motion to save hazardous coal plants, our own actions are becoming futile. As time goes by, more organized acts from influential players and institutions become necessary to address the apparent regression caused by important global figures such as Trump.

Of most concern are the political issues that have to do with the environment. In retaliation to the retraction of Obama-era environmental campaigns, for instance, Bloomberg has been fighting to retire coal factories since last year.

“The war on coal has never been led by Washington. It has been led by market forces that are providing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy,” Bloomberg told reporters… “The war on coal is saving tens of thousands of lives, and we won’t stop fighting until we save every last one.”

It seems the Clean Power Plan, which has worked towards regulating harmful substances, may be coming to an end. To say environmental groups are infuriated may be an understatement.

“Coal jobs aren’t coming back,” Bloomberg said. “Trying to force taxpayers to subsidize them back into existence will only lead to more death and disease.”

In the hopes of retiring 259 U.S. coal plants, Bloomberg is contributing $64 million to activist group the Sierra Club. In total, the company has provided $100 million to assist the country in finding carbon-free sources. Plus, nowadays, it’s hard not to find inspiration when alternative eco-friendly options like solar power and wind energy are becoming more widespread and accessible.

Cheap labor or breathable air? I think I’ll take the latter.

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Millennials are Intensely Changing the Food Industry — Here’s How

 

As the old saying goes, change is the only constant thing in the world. And with a politically engaged and environmentally concerned generation, that should ring very true. Say what you will about millennials — I’m sure opinions vary about the traits that characterize the generation — but they sure bring forth some important changes. Most succinctly, to the food industry.

Millennials are dramatically disrupting the way food is produced, packaged, marketed and served. As a highly vocal group, millennials have given food producers little option but to listen to their demands, resulting in changes to not only food choices, but farming techniques and restaurant services as well.

Though it seems obvious and simple that individual food choices are changing across generations, surely there are bound to be implications on the entire food industry. One of the significant changes on the food landscape is how the word healthy is understood.

While older generations may have contented themselves with vague “low-fat” or “healthy” labels, millennials have higher expectations, especially when it comes to GMOs.

Not only are they exploring healthy Mediterranean diets or looking for meat alternatives, people now have also been advocating for healthier food production techniques. A good nutritional breakdown isn’t enough anymore, this generation wants their food sources organic.

And because of this, healthy has also started to mean local.

[This] has led to a preference for local food brands over national ones, both at the level of production and consumption. Whether buying food at the grocery store or eating out, millennials seek out locally sourced food . . . Some millennials have taken this trend a step further and started to grow their own food in urban and rooftop farms.

True enough, these days, interesting options exist for people who want to try their own hand at producing their own food. Home gardening systems such as OGarden and TerraFarms are now available in the market. So, in addition to being healthy and locally sourced, alternative food sources that millennials encourage are also sustainable.

Another important change in the food industry is the increase popularity of eating out in restaurants.

Technology also plays a major role in making restaurants more popular with younger generations. With apps like the Humane Eating project that combine millennials’ love of technology with sustainable eating, it’s no wonder that more people are exploring new places to eat.

So, to recap, some preferences that millennials have shown the food industry are these: healthy, locally sourced, and sustainably grown. And with how technology and social media work nowadays, it’s no wonder that these choices became demands that the food industry have had to respond to. As a result, more and more huge companies such as Dunkin Donuts’, McDonald’s, and other food giants have been committing to efforts toward sustainability.

It’s only a matter of time before we see how these changes in the food industry will eventually affect other sectors like public health and even the global economy. But it’s amazing to see how individual food choices have led up to this moment. So millennials, don’t be afraid to be bold. Even with your choice of salad for brunch tomorrow.

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Helping Out: the Latest Lifestyle Trend

Every so often, I write about a current or emerging lifestyle trend that isn’t only able to influence our own personal choices but also to shape the culture we engage with. In fact, this is one of my favorite topics to write about. It’s certainly my life goal to stay trendy and support sustainability at the same time, and I love spreading the word about it. Here are some of the lifestyle trends that I’ve previously written about and remain beloved to me:

1. Sustainable fashion

Making your wardrobe eco-friendly isn’t really as difficult as it sounds. The key, as I often point out in other aspects of daily life, is to organize. From your old ones, pick your favorite and essential clothing items then decide on what you don’t need. Go on to sell or donate them. Whatever you do, don’t throw stuff away!

As for shopping for new items, be aware of your sources. Do your research in advance. Shopping local is usually a good way to support the community. Avoiding items that might have come from animal cruelty is a good principle. At the end, I guess it’s a matter of principle and knowing which fashion companies mirror yours.

2. Food choices — organic, local, and balanced

Sustainability, though it is also seen in other aspects of daily life like fashion, most often comes up in conversations about food choices. So it’s safe to say updating your lifestyle means supporting sustainable food production. Millennials, they say, are effecting some big changes in the food industry: they opt out of GMOs, go organic, and support local. And I believe those are very good choices. Now more than ever, people are encouraged to produce their own food by growing their own gardens and such.

However, in addition to sustainable, what should food choices be if not healthy? Research says that a Mediterranean or a plant-based meal plan can give us the most health benefits. So don’t go for those heavily advertised crash diets. Choose the most balanced — thus sustainable — one for your body as well.

3. All-around mindset

Here’s the thing. Doing healthy things and following lifestyle trends without reflecting on why you do them could suffice, but they cannot ensure  long-lasting effects on your well-being. What’s really important is how you think about your life and how you let that process manifest into actual decisions. Some things that really helped me be more conscious of my choices are lagom and mindfulness. Lagom has helped me achieve balance in my daily life — from arranging my apartment furniture to reducing my work-related stress. Mindfulness has helped me embrace my mental illness, commit to a self-care regimen, and even seek help when I need it.

Now you may ask, why am I listing all of these things? It’s because I want to reflect further on what makes a certain lifestyle trend so important to me. And I’ve been thinking, in the end, it’s all about kindness, isn’t it? Sustainable fashion is all about being kind to the earth. Sustainable food choices is about being kind not only to the environment, but to your own body as well. Certain mindsets like lagom and mindfulness are about being kind to yourself and the people that you love and that love you.

I realize, maybe the next thing that I want to commit to is being kind beyond my self and my inner circle. So here’s another lifestyle trend that I believe should go viral:

4. Kindness, kindness, kindness.

Maybe it’s not even simply the latest lifestyle trend, maybe kindness is a more timeless choice that we need to make chic now. After all, it even has some amazing health benefits. So go outside and volunteer. Help out a stranger in need — whether he is in a medical emergency or simply needs a ride home — because you don’t know what impact it will make on his life. And for the matter, you don’t know what impact it will make on the world. Maybe one little favor can push someone to pay it forward and eventually end up creating an entire culture of helping other people out.

Sustainable fashion or food choices make us feel good, but what can make us feel better than being compassionate to others? And in the way that choosing organic for your salad today can be great for the environment, helping someone out may end up making the world better. Now that’s chic.

Final tip: you can actually use technology to start on this kindness lifestyle. Use the BeepBeep Nation app in reaching out to those who need your help, and learn more about the EMINENT token to get started. And hey, honestly, helping out has never been this trendy.

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Black Butterflies Inspire More Efficient Solar Panels

When it comes to moving forward with technology, we tend to fall back on nature. After all, in most ways, science is organic. If slugs can inspire a medical glue that will ease the difficulties of surgery, other animals can do the same. To improve on solar panels, researchers are drawing ideas from black butterflies.

The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy.

Normally, solar panels are made with thick solar cells. Thin film solar cells have a lot of potential, but are not as productive. The black butterflies absorb heat perfectly because their wings are covered in holes. These holes effectively scatter light.

“I think what’s interesting is the excellent approach of looking at the underlying physiological concepts and then taking these concepts and emulating them in a structure that doesn’t look quite look like how a butterfly looks but does the same physics,” says Mathias Kolle, a professor of engineering.

The research has since received proper funding and, hopefully, will flutter along seamlessly.

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42 Food Giants Pledge to Ax Plastic

2018 gave us a lot of eco-friendly changes in the food industry: Pepsi debuted reusable bottles for flavored beverages, Dunkin Donuts ditched foam cups from their packaging, even McDonald’s followed suit with foam cups and plastic straws. I hate to say that this environmentalist trend among food giants has reached its peak with the good news I bring now, but it does feel like a culmination of sorts.

A total of 42 food companies in the UK — composed of retailers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and brands — have pledged to ax single-use plastics by 2025.

Together, the signatories represent roughly 80% of the plastics sold in UK supermarkets. The initiative . . . has set a series of goals to cut wasteful packaging over the course of the next seven years. For starters, the initiative will ensure that 100% of plastic packaging must either be recyclable, compostable, or reusable in order to make it onto supermarket shelves. Some supermarkets have gone even further and declared that plastic packaging will no longer be used on fruits and vegetables.

The signatories include UK brands like Asda, Nestle, Lidl, Coca-Cola, Aldi, PepsiCo, Unilever, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsbury, and many others. Besides ensuring the elimination of single-use plastics, the pledge also covers recycling. The current recycling rate is 30%, and the participating food giants seek to bump it up to 70%.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who is backing the pact, said in a statement: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realized if government, businesses, and the public work together.”

In addition to bringing super chic eco-bags to the supermarket, well, I guess I just have to remember this pledge to feel less guilty when buying those apples.

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Concrete Can Withstand High Magnitude Earthquakes

If a bamboo building can withstand several sorts of natural disasters, surely, any other structure can. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case — until, maybe, now. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are testing a type of concrete that can resist high magnitude earthquakes.

Researchers at . . . UBC have created a fiber-reinforced concrete called eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite (EDCC), that can withstand high seismic activity. The engineered material combines “cement with polymer-based fibers, fly ash and other industrial additives,” according to a university press release.

Simply adding a 10-millimeter layer of the material to existing walls is enough to make it practically impenetrable. But the strength to withstand high magnitude earthquakes — up to a magnitude 9.0! — isn’t the only fantastic feature of the material. It is also linked to sustainability efforts. Considering that normal concrete contributes to nearly 7% of carbon emissions, using mostly fly ash or a coal combustion byproduct definitely earns EDCC points. Hopefully, it will lessen the damages caused by the cement industry to the environment.

“This UBC-developed technology has far-reaching impact and could save the lives of not only British Columbians, but citizens throughout the world,” said Melanie Mark, the minister of advanced education, skills and training in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “The earthquake-resistant concrete is a great example of how applied research at our public universities is developing the next generation of agents of change.”

In the near future, EDCC will also be used for strengthening home structures and blast-resistant buildings. A proud salute to public universities making a difference!

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