background preloader

These Floating Sea Trees Could Bring Wildlife Back to Big Cities

These Floating Sea Trees Could Bring Wildlife Back to Big Cities
In the world’s biggest cities, it’s hard enough for humans to find a little elbow room—now think about carving out habitat for wildlife in places like Manhattan. Dutch architect Koen Olthuis thinks he has the design that can extend urban sprawl into city waterways—but instead of floating high-rises offshore, he envisions wildlife oases within city limits. Called Sea Trees, the steel structures are based on existing offshore oil platforms. Anchored to the ocean or river floor, Sea Tree pillars would extend above and below the water surface, providing “layered” habitats—almost like the floors of a skyscraper—for flora and fauna. “Oil companies have used these floating storage towers for years, we only gave them a new shape and function,” Olthuis said in a statement. Olthuis, head architect at Waterstudio, thinks Sea Trees could bring animals back to areas taken over by humans, helping to stem falling wildlife populations. Olthuis designed Sea Trees to be inaccessible to humans.

The Surprising Source of Pollution Trashing San Diego’s Beaches When San Diego environmentalists tallied up how much trash they collected from local beaches in 2014, they found, not surprisingly, a lot of plastic. In fact, volunteers removed 23,477 pieces of plastic and 17,438 pieces of plastic foam. But that pollution was dwarfed by the 75,069 cigarette butts fouling beaches, according to a report released Monday by San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “Littered butts continue to be a major concern because they are nonbiodegradable and leach toxins into the water, poisoning marine life,” the report states. “They also move with ease through our storm water systems, meaning a cigarette butt need not be dropped directly at the beach in order to find its way there.” Although smoking rates have been in decline for decades, more butts are finding their way to the beach. The question is, why? In 2014, more than 7,000 volunteers picked up 207,804 pieces of trash weighing a total of 10,455 pounds.

Saving Our Soils and Climate with Biochar Dear EarthTalk: What is biochar and how can it help reduce my carbon footprint? – William Jarvis, Bethlehem, PA Biochar is a naturally occurring, fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal derived from the process of baking biomass—and it’s been associated with fertile soils for some two thousand years. Indeed, researchers have been hard at work perfecting their own methods for manufacturing biochar by baking biomass in giant oxygen-free kilns. Farmers can layer biochar into their fields where it becomes part of the soil matrix and helps retain water and essential agricultural nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Beyond agriculture, biochar can also be used to clean up polluted land. As far as environmentalists are concerned, the greater the demand for biochar the better, given the fact that it is a potent storage mechanism for carbon dioxide that would otherwise head into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

This Reusable Paper Saves Trees and Prints Using Ultraviolet Light Scientists are redefining what it means to go paperless. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have been working on an alternative to traditional paper that can be printed on and erased more than 20 times. Its low-cost production could help reduce waste, deforestation, and chemical pollution, according to chemistry professor Yadong Yin, who copublished a paper on the design in Nature. “If we are comparing the rewritable paper to conventional ones, it has the advantages of being more economical, environmental, and energy friendly,” he said. “It can be produced at about the same cost as regular paper and does not require additional inks for printing.” Ultraviolet light is used to print on the rewritable “paper,” which is a thin plastic film coated in nontoxic dye. The material doesn’t disintegrate over time, but the scientists are working on a method to create a cellulose-based version that's less environmentally harmful to produce than regular paper.

The New Oregon Carbon Tax Report is Out We are already paying a high price for fossil fuels: strange and severe weather, asthma and cancer cases, a Northwest economy weakened by huge bills for importing coal, oil, and gas, and the political vice grip that Big Oil has on our democracy. Last year, Portland State University (PSU) gave the Oregon legislature a teaser about how to face those problems with a carbon tax. Intrigued by the possibility of holding big polluters accountable and generating revenue for Oregonians, the legislature asked for more information, and this week PSU’s Northwest Economic Research Center (NERC) delivered. The new and expanded analysis concludes that charging carbon polluters would cut pollution and it could create jobs and raise wages. If Oregon spends the money right. What scenarios did NERC model? NERC modeled carbon taxes ranging from $10 to $150 per ton of greenhouse gas pollution. How much carbon pollution can a carbon tax cut? How much money could a carbon tax raise?

Outlet Outrage: Why Not All Electric Cars Are as Clean as They Seem Shocker: If the current powering your electric vehicle is generated by coal-fired power plants, that automobile could be causing more air pollution than cars that burn gasoline. That’s one finding of a new study out of the University of Minnesota, where researchers ran models to better grasp how much air pollution was created by the full scope of activities needed to power electric cars versus gasoline-fueled cars. They included not just the fuel burned or not burned by the vehicle but also the emissions created by generating electricity or manufacturing gasoline. “Our work highlights the importance of looking at the full life cycle of energy production and use, not just at what comes out of tailpipes,” Jason Hill, assistant professor and coauthor of the study, said in a statement. However, EVs are able to take advantage of a transition to low-carbon electricity generation by becoming cleaner vehicles, while gas-powered cars cannot.

Six Myths About Electricity in the U.S. South Debunked Clean energy can help meet growing electricity demand and minimize pollution in the Southern United States, but progress to adopt renewable energy strategies has been hindered by a number of myths, according to a new study by Duke and Georgia Tech researchers. These myths, encompassing both sides of the clean energy debate, may affect how the South responds to what is expected to be a 28 percent rise in population within the next 20 years. A study by researchers at Duke University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, published in the journal Energy Policy, spells out and debunks popular myths about clean energy that have been promulgated by policymakers, business leaders and advocacy groups in the South. "Myths about clean electricity shape perceptions and have delayed progress in the South," said Etan Gumerman, the study's co-author and senior policy analyst at Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Free Money to Save Water? You Can Do It, and Here’s How Would you try to save water if someone paid you to conserve? A start-up called MeterHero thinks so. Last week, the company started paying out cash rebates to people who curb their water consumption. It’s not a lot—$1 for every 100 gallons saved—but the initiative marks a new approach to conservation. Getting a grip on your water use can be a pain, given that utilities reveal consumption in unfamiliar terms (centum cubic feet, anyone?) and too infrequently (as in every month or three). MeterHero gives consumers an online platform to track how much water they use in terms they can understand. McGee Young, a political science professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin, founded MeterHero earlier this year to address what he observed as a contradiction between the utility business model and the need for conservation in an increasingly water-stressed world. MeterHero’s solution: provide incentives for both consumers and businesses to use less water. Anyone who has a water meter can sign up.

Seeking Creative Ways to Deal with Food Waste at Hospitals BioHitech America’s anaerobic digesters turn food waste into grey water Hospitals and health clinics across the world struggle with waste for numerous reasons. Their waste streams are more complicated, due to the various streams they produce and the regulations they have to follow: think of all the bandages, pharmaceuticals and yes, what comes out of the operating rooms as well. Information on how much waste hospitals generate is sparse. One survey suggests hospitals in the U.S. generate about 34 pounds of waste per day, per bed—but that was from a network of “eco-friendly” hospitals. With food waste contributing about 10 percent to a hospital’s waste stream, more health care companies are finding more creative ways to churn all that slop into something useful. BioHitech America, based in New York, has been growing their business with their aerobic digesters. The company recently added two more in the Boston area.