Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

New insights on photosynthesis bring us one step closer to solar fuels

Scientists have determined the exact structure of an important photosynthesis complex at a crucial stage. Photo: Shutterstock

For billions of years, nature has been harnessing the energy from the sun through photosynthesis. This way, plants, algae and cyanobacteria use sunlight to split water and produce energy-rich chemical compounds from carbon dioxide (CO2). This energy is then transferred to animal that eat these plants, and animals that eat plant-eating animals, including us humans. It’s clear that without photosynthesis, there would be no life as we know it.  A photosynthesis dream Society today is highly dependent on energy, so why not profit from a process that’s been evolutionary refined for billions of years? Synthetic photosynthesis is a hot trend in biotech right now, but while scientists have known the basic…

Green Living, News, Pollution

People in Beijing can pay for public transportation in recycling

Image via PangeaToday

People from Beijing can now use one of the city’s 34 newly installed facilities which allows them to pay for public transportation or charge their phone credit with empty plastic bottles. China is the world’s biggest polluter, and will likely stay so for years and years to come. The growth of their economy has been fueled by coal consumption, which is the dirtiest type of energy out there, and the Chinese smog (which could be seen from outer space) is already well known and documented. But we have to give credit where credit is due – not because of the size of the initiative (34 plastic recyclers are not that…

Green Living, Health & Medicine, News

Older, more compact cities are better for your health

Healthiest city designs, from best to worst (Journal of Transportation and Health)

A first of its kind study conducted at the University of Colorado Denver looked at how city design affects populace health. Older cities, initially built for pedestrian traffic in mind were found to harbor less cases of diabetes and other diseases than those with broader streets and fewer intersections. While some people can stay healthy and stick to exercising habits no matter where they live in, the study suggests that in general cities which are optimized for vehicle traffic discourage walking and other healthy activities….

Anthropology, Climate, Environment, Green Living, News

Aboriginals boost kangaroo populations when hunting with fire

While they hunt kangaroos, aborigines in remote areas of Australia help boost marsupial populations by lighting bush fires. Image: acanberraboy.blogspot.com

The Aboriginal Martu people have been hunting kangaroos and sand monitor lizards for over 2,000 years. During this time, the natives have not only lived sustainably, but also became unwilling conservationists helping kangaroo populations grow by sparking wild fires that help them catch lizards, a study by researchers at University of Utah found. In other remote areas where this subsistence practice ceased, the researchers recorded rapid declines in threatened species, which also might be due to increased predation by invasive predators. [ALSO READ] Kangaroos use their tail as an extra leg when walking Kangaroos and fires, who would’ve thought? “We have uncovered a framework that allows us to predict when human subsistence practices…

Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

Popeye’s secret: spinach provides key insight that might one day lead to artificial photosynthesis

photosynthesis

While scientists have been studying and incrementally increasing solar cell efficiency, we’ve yet to reach nature’s magnitude of solar energy conversion through photosynthesis. Artificial photosynthesis is a goal in alternative energy research, yet the process is extremely difficult to mimic since, in nature, the process involves numerous stages and transformation of matter and energy. Purdue University physicists used spinach and applied novel techniques to understand what happens during one of the photosynthesis stages. Just add water, CO2 and sunlight Photosynthesis is the process plants employ to convert carbon dioxide using energy from the sun into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen-carrying carbohydrates and oxygen. This process is achieved with massive energy…

Environmental Issues, Green Living, News

‘Everything is NOT awesome’: Greenpeace viral video slashes Shell-Lego partnership

lego

Greenpeace premiered a video yesterday that campaign’s against Shell’s plans of drilling in the Arctic, but primarily targets a proxy company, Lego. The ad wants to move the Danish toy company to cancel its deal with Shell that will put Lego toys in hundreds of gas stations. In the video, an oil-stricken Arctic depicted in a set comprised of 120kg of Lego is shown as it slowly becomes engulfed by a sea of black tar. The only concrete message comes at the very end when a text block warns: “Shell is polluting our kids’ imagination”, in response to Lego’s official company mission – serving creativity and inspiration to children. The ad…

Environmental Issues, Green Living, News, Science

Cutting down CO2 emission might save the economy $71 trillion by 2050

cutting_down_on_emission

“We can’t give up oil and coal because it will ruin our economy.” This is an argument often thrown about by politicians, ignorant policy makers and Fox News peeps. In reality, they couldn’t be more wrong. It’s enough to read the extensive report published by the IEA, titled  Energy Technology Perspectives 2014, which analyzes how the energy sector might look like 40 years from now to understand why this is so. By closely working together in a coordinated effort, the report concludes, the world might save 71trillion by 2050, a huge economic bonus to saving the planet from global warming. “The USD 44 trillion additional investment needed to decarbonise the energy…

Green Living, News, Pollution

Bioplastic made from shrimp shell could help curb plastic pollution

The Wyss Institute researchers molded a series of chess pieces made of their chitosan bioplastic, demonstrating a new way towards mass-manufacturing large 3D objects with complex shapes made of fully compostable materials. Credit: Harvard's Wyss Institute

In the US alone, some 34 million tons of plastic waste is generated every year, of which only seven percent gets recycled. The good thing about plastic is that it’s sturdy, cheap and easy to make – these are also its biggest downsides. Plastic is so well built that it can last up to 1,000 years in landslides without degrading, affecting soil, plant life and virtually causing an ecological disaster. When discarded in the sea, plastic can kill marine life . It’s estimated 100 million tons are circulating in vast oceanic gyres, staying afloat. What are our options then? Society today is so dependent on plastic that any attempt to curb it’s…

Environmental Issues, Green Living, News

Environmental rule regulating mercury emissions saves lives (and $90 billion)

coal mercury emissions

Can you put a cost on pollution? Policy makers, not matter how some may deny it, are more astute than they were a few decades ago about subjects like climate change or global warming. Few can deny the adverse effects of immediate particle pollution on health, but whenever environmental regulations were put forth on the table, cost was a significant deterrent. Last week, a court passed one of the most important rules in the U.S.’s environmental history: the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR). The law will regulate electrical utilities to keep down their mercury emissions up to a certain level and will supposedly prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart…

Eco tips, Green Living, Materials, News

3D printer used to build 10 homes in one day in China

China_printed_house

Say what you will, but the Chinese are clearly the fastest builders in the world, though sometimes quick haste makes to waste. A while ago, I wrote about how a Chinese company wants to build the tallest skyscraper in the world in just 90 days. Really crazy stuff, but now another Chinese company, with many years of experience working with 3D printers, plan to revolutionize the way fast constructions are being made. To demonstrate their concept, the Suzhou-based construction materials firm Winsun built 10 homes, albeit modest looking, in only a day using a massive, specially design 3D printer. Instead of a smooth polymer like in the case of conventional…