The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.
The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.
Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.
“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”
Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.
With cruelty-free cosmetics flying off shelves, going completely vegan seems the logical next step. The Ocean Frontier Institute in Canada has since developed fish waste nail polish — maybe too adventurous for some. On the tamer end, beauty brand Mented has raised $1 million to create vegan products for women of color.
“Our end goal is that women of color feel prioritized in the world of beauty,” said [co-founder K.J.] Miller. “Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.”
Mented, short for “pigmented”, is first launching non-toxic nude lippies, then an entire range of eye makeup. The remainder of the fundraised sum will go to hiring personnel and marketing the business.
“We really think we’re onto something here at Mented,” [co-founder Amanda] Johnson said. “Even though women of color have a difficult time raising money, if there’s an underserved market, investors attack it.”
Whether we like to think so or not, racial inequality remains present in many communities. Mented is not only bringing color onto lips, but into a society that may still be stuck in black and white.
China may be home to one of the world’s great wonders, but it’s also housing something far more dangerous — air pollution. It may be cracking down on carbon emissions with air-purifying bicycles and solar farms, but it seems efforts are lacking. A blessing in disguise, damaging factory activity has forced the country to shut down industrial regions to reevaluate environmental laws.
“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” says [Archie Liu of MKT & Associates]. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”
With 40% of Chinese factories at a standstill, economic impact will be harsh — but totally worth it. Chinese tax bureaus will be taking over environmental groups, meaning greater consequences for law-breakers.
“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates.
Criminal enforcement may sound overbearing, but in a deteriorating planet, may be just what we need.
Nowadays, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been truer. We’re turning garbage into anything from furniture to vodka, and it seems we can push the limits even further. Engineering group Arup is proving just that, proposing the use of food waste in building materials.
The report aims “at demonstrating that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible.” This could be done by diverting, in part, organic waste that is traditionally managed through landﬁll, incineration and composting to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products.
According to Arup, bananas can produce textiles, while mushrooms can grow actual towers. It seems, with food waste, it’s best to let one’s imagination run wild — and for good reasons.
Using food waste for building materials would help create a circular economy where organic waste, instead of being disposed, is the main resource… This would help ameliorate rising levels of waste and shortfalls of raw material, as well as providing the industry with cheap, low carbon materials.
Looking to renovate your home? No need for concrete fillers — just use rice!
Nowadays, children have become more eager to explore issues outside of the classroom. Anything from vehicular traffic to eye diseases are inspiring them to create. Next in line as America’s Top Young Scientist is Gitanjali Rao, whose handmade device detects lead contamination in water.
“I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years,” [said] Rao… “I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water and I wanted to do something to change this.”
The determined seventh-grader, with the help of her engineer parents and local universities, came through with Tethys. Using carbon nanotube sensors, the device can accurately detect lead and send information to any smartphone. She subsequently won the Young Scientist challenge and pocketed $25,000.
“Advice I would give to other kids would be to never be afraid to try,” Gitanjali said. “I had so many failures when I was doing my tests. It was frustrating the first couple of times, but towards the end, everything started coming together.”
Rao intends to invest part of the prize money into developing Tethys. The rest will fund her schooling — bright minds deserve the best education.
If going vegetarian is something up your alley, this nutty milk delivery service may be perfect for you. With Mylk Man, ditching dairy has never been simpler.
Mylk Man offers your classic plant-based flavours, like almond, in addition to funkier bottles, like pistachio and sweet chai and turmeric and cashew.
As well as these fancier varieties giving them an edge on supermarket-stocked brands, there’s also the 12 per cent minimum volume of nuts in every bottle – significantly higher than most mass-produced blends.
As a vegan lifestyle is clearly all the rage, Mylk Man should be nothing short of a hit. 500 ml bottles start at £1.75. Glass material makes them easy to recycle or return for future deliveries. Unfortunately for any neighboring European countries, Mylk Man is London-based (but there are talks of expansion).
“Sustainability is fundamental to what we do,” says [business owner] Jamie. “As well as being plastic-free and using glass bottles, we give 10 per cent of our profits to Greenpeace. And we’re stocked in massive tanks at the Bulk Market zero waste shop, in Dalston.”
For a taste, I’d say an impromptu weekend in London wouldn’t be out of the question.
Following the success of solar power, developers have been harvesting clean energy from other sources. Now that we can accumulate electricity through passing vehicles and even cow excrement, nothing else seems far-fetched. Wind power may be nothing new, but these floating offshore turbines are the first of their kind.
The 30MW installation… will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters… where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible. At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes.
The irony behind the nautical wind farm is its contractor — Statoil. The company is a corporate giant notorious for oil drilling. It’s somewhat of a paradox, but I’m a fan. Statoil claims that the wind farm’s offshore location is also beneficial.
The farther out you can place offshore turbines, the steadier and faster the wind is. It also comes with the added benefit of avoiding any community arguments over clean ocean views… [also] unimaginably large rotor components can be delivered by sea rather than by land, where roads have weight limits.
In the end, Statoil is living proof that you can easily give back what you take from nature. While we’d rather leave Mother Nature alone entirely, compensation is better than nothing.
Inner Mongolia’s solar powered Dragonfly bridge may be the walkway of the future — but not soon enough. Filling the gaps is Eindhoven University of Technology, which 3D-printed the world’s first cycling bridge.
“One of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mould is filled,” it said on [the university] website. “A printer deposits the concrete only where it is needed.”
The bridge is nothing grand in scale, but can reportedly withstand the weight of 40 trucks. While I don’t suppose you can cram that many vehicles onto a 26-foot bridge, the point is clear. The university’s partner company BAM Infra is hopeful that the bridge will inspire more efficient technology.
[BAM is] “searching for a newer, smarter approach to addressing infrastructure issues and making a significant contribution to improving the mobility and sustainability of our society.”
In the 3D-printing world, the Netherlands remains on top of cutting-edge resources.
Considering the number of annual deaths caused by pollution, it not only makes sense to cut emissions but to also improve air quality. All over the world, groups are working to make the atmosphere as breathable as possible. Bogota is erecting vertical gardens while China is manufacturing air-purifying bicycles. Not to be outdone, Iceland has set up the world’s first negative emissions power plant.
Climate startup Climeworks refitted a geothermal plant in Iceland to remove carbon dioxide from the air while also generating power for thousands of homes. This carbon dioxide is safely embedded in rock, where it will remain for millions of years.
The storage process, called carbon capture and storage, is keeping temperatures from rising to extreme levels. The facility is projected to remove 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually. It isn’t much — but it’s something! The procedure is also fairly straightforward.
Climeworks uses… [the] plant’s waste heat to run their own carbon capture tech, pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air and feeding it into the existing Carbfix infrastructure, which deposits it in underground basalt. There, the carbon dioxide forms crystals within two years, and remains stable underground for millennia.
Limited to information from my high school physics class, I hardly knew trapping CO2 was possible. Either way, we should be over the moon to have chemical engineers.
“Trashion”, or trash fashion, is taking over as one of the biggest trends of the year. It isn’t only unique — it’s inspiring many to build sustainable closets. Taking the lead from smaller brands, fashion giants are beginning to shrink their carbon footprints. Italian fashion house Gucci promises to go fur-free by 2018.
[Marco] Bizzarri said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals.”
The ban will eliminate the use of mink, coyote, raccoon, fox, and rabbit fur. The brand’s remaining fur items will be auctioned off. Proceeds will be donated to animal rights groups.
Gucci will become part of the Fur Free Alliance – an international group of organizations which campaigns on animal welfare and promotes alternatives to fur in the fashion industry.
Imaginably, leaders of the global fur trade are appalled by the decision, claiming that “fur is the most natural fashion item.” Unfortunately for them, Gucci is realizing that being sustainable is a tad more vogue.