Categories
Mobility Materials

148: Fibreglass boat recycling system

Problem:

Since fibreglass or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) boatbuilding began in the late 1950s, there has been a steady accumulation of unrecyclable old hulls all over the yachting world, numbering in the millions. Some will be crushed and buried in landfills; others are simply abandoned on land, often in boatyards or dealer service yards, or left as derelicts along waterways, where they can harm the environment.

Solution:

In 2007-2008 in the UK several trials were undertaken through the BeAware project (Built Environment Action on Waste Awareness and Resource Efficiency) to incorporate GRP waste into pre-cast concrete and rubber products.


With grinding, dimensions of the small resulting pieces ranged from 1 in (2.5 cm) to powder. That material could then be then be integrated into cement and therewith, be used in constructions.

The clinker was ground to form cement. Alumina and silica also have cementlike properties in an alkaline environment and are typically present in Portland cement at about 25%, and in much higher proportions in cement alternatives from fly-ash and slag. Boron, which is found in most E-glass, can cause a reduction in early strength during the setting of cement, but as long as proportions are kept low it is not considered a problem.

In 2010, Fiberline Composites of Middelfart, Denmark, a manufacturer of fibreglass and carbon fibre profiles signed a contract with two companies: Zajons in Germany, which specializes in converting waste to alternative fuels for industry and Holcim (Germany), subsidiary of the world leading cement manufacturer from Switzerland.

Under the contract, surplus fibreglass from Fiberline’s production in Denmark will be shipped south for use as a key constituent of cement. This breakthrough soon came to be used in other European countries, with an initial 10,000 hulls processed and recycled as part of several national and multinational marine industry programs.

Researchers at Windsheim University in the Netherlands have been testing out the re-use of such material to make piling sheets.

More recently both initiatives have begun in Canada and the USA. Transport Canada is financing Jeosal Materials Research Corporation working with Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, under the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge to develop a possible solution for recycling fibreglass.

In New York State, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) has launched a Fiberglass Vessel Recycling Pilot Project, partnering with local boatyards for dismantling and crushing 22 to 33 tons (20 to 30 tonnes) of fiberglass for use by cement industry partners in South Carolina. While it is important to note that the RIFVR Pilot Project is just taking its nascent steps, if things go well, the project could eventually be rolled out regionally and nationally.

What you can do: Tell coastal and estuary authorities that they can now recycle abandoned fibre-glass hulls.

Tomorrow’s solution: recycling old wind turbine blades

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Categories
Materials Planet Care

147: Floating farm

Problem:

Energy is used to transport farm produce from the countryside to towns and cities and to keep it fresh during transit.

Solution:

A floating dairy farm


In June 2019, a Dutch property company called Beladon launched the world’s first floating dairy farm anchored to the ocean’s floor in the middle of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven harbour. 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows are milked by Lely robots to produce 1700 pints (800 liters) of milk a day.

Peter van Wingerden, an engineer at Beladon, came up with the idea in 2012 when he was in New York working on a floating housing project on the Hudson River.

While there, Hurricane Sandy struck, flooding the city streets and crippling its transport networks. Deliveries struggled to get through and within two days it was hard to find fresh produce in shops. Seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy van Wingerden was struck by the need for food to be produced as near as possible to consumers.

The top floor of the cow garden houses greenhouses for clover, grass, and other crops that feed the cows; the middle level is the animals’ floating home, a grassy enclosure meant to resemble a natural garden, but populated with artificial trees.

The cows called Karma, Courage, and Sustainabetty are free to roam in and out of their stalls, and also have the option to graze on solid ground in an adjacent field they can access via a ramp. Lely Robots provide them with fodder and brush them down. Finally, the bottom floor contains a processing plant, turning fresh milk into consumer products, including yogurt and, possibly, Comté-style cheese.

All of this futuristic food manufacturing is happening behind glass walls to literally emphasize transparency. School children and consumers are being invited to tour the farm and watch robots milk the cows and pick up their waste, which is used as fertilizer or converted into energy for on-site use.

To power it, the farm uses solar and wind energy from rooftop windmills and solar panels, while artificial trees with real ivy provide shade for the cows and reduce energy consumption by cooling the space.

One of the Dutch farming organizations that collaborated with Beladon is planning to take the same concept to other cities, and is already developing a floating vegetable and egg farm. Before they move on to chickens, however, they will hopefully have solved one current problem: what to do about that distinct animal farm odour.

The cows arrived on board in April 2019. No matter how much rain falls, no matter how high sea level goes, this farm can always produce life-essential, healthy food. By August, floating production was more than 160 gallons (600 litres) of milk a day.

Van Wingerden has talked to food companies and developers seeking to bring buoyant dairies to Singapore, Dubai, and New York.

Discover Solution 148: Fibreglass boat recycling system

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Categories
Planet Care Human Effort Materials

146: Faux fur

Problem:

Should animals continue to be killed so their pelt is transformed into fur clothing? Since animal fur is treated with heavy dyes and chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde (both of which are highly toxic), it is slow to biodegrade. The bodies of fur animals are just wasted since they are not eaten, while their poop and blood are dumped into water systems as waste. Equally, faux fur made of plastics and acrylics is slow to biodegrade.

Solutions:

Artificial – “faux” – fur


Ecopel, a Franco-Chinese company, has developed a faux fur material made from recycled plastic bottles using a collection system internalized at the company’s mills in Asia. Ecopel works with more than 1,000 employees.

The fiber used, MODACrylic or polyester, allows the creation of a eco-friendly product. The resin is enriched with natural fibers such as cotton or hemp, to bring luster and softness. Ecopel is used by famous brands such as Gucci, Calvin Klein or Tommy Hillfiger and many others.

Fashion designer Stella McCartney OBE also uses a beauty-without-Cruelty Fur-Free-Fur product. In 2019, by Her own decision, the mink lining of a coat that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II wore to Slovakia in 2008 has been replaced with faux fur.

Bolt Threads,whose products are made using mushroom-based leather, are collaborating with McCartney, Kering (the fashion house behind brands like Belenciaga, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta) and Adidas to create consortium to create a new range of faux fur.

In Russia, Sergey Leonov at the School of Biological and Medical Physics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology successfully bioengineered animal pelts and hides in petridishes. Such vertebrate cells used could come from an antelope, cheetah, chinchilla, crocodile, ermine, leopard, lynx, lion, marten, mink, sable, and stoat, indeed all species killed for their pelts. Marie Vlad has started up Furoid to make and sell the product.

What you can do: Do not use real fur unless it’s a hand-down, instead buy faux fur.

Discover Solution 147: Farms that float

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Categories
Materials Your Home

145: Recycling false teeth

Problem:

Dental crowns, bridges, and PFMs are alloyed with gold, platinum, palladium, and silver, nylon and acrylic. When their wearer changes them or dies, they must be recycled in order not to end up in the landfill.

Solution:

In 2006, Isao Miyoshi was running a dental laboratory in Sakado, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Every day, he visited the dentistry department at the local Meikai University Hospital, where he collected dozens of plaster impressions of people’s gums and their remaining teeth. Back at Miyoshi’s lab, his 12 dental technicians then crafted new dentures as replacements for the patients’ lost teeth.


But then 63-year-old Miyoshi came up with a solution. In his lab, they were making about 30 new dentures a day. People on average get new dentures every three years, because the condition of their teeth changes. Once the new ones are made, dentists usually give the old ones back to the patients. But most people don’t know what to do with them and they end up keeping them in a drawer.

That’s really a waste of something useful.

What if he were to collect crowns, bridgework, dentures, inlays, clasps, gold teeth and other metal extractions, then remove the metals and re-sell them for recycling while discarding the rest.

With 5 grams of these alloys worth around 2,000 yen, once they are separated from the dentures recycle used dentures, if all of the 3.6 million dentures with precious metals discarded each year in Japan were recycled, they would be valued at up to 7 billion yen (roughly $83.3 million).

Miyoshi founded a non-profit Japan Denture Recycling Association and it was not long before the program was able to donate all its earnings to UNICEF and has since given over $400,000 to charity

Founded in 1892, Garfield Refining in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is one of the oldest and most respected precious metal refineries in the world. Recognized in North America as DentalTown’s “Best Dental Scrap Refiner” for 9 years in a row, for Garfield refining is recycling.

In England, Simple Refining, a family run company based in Cheshire, also specialises in gold refining and recycling of dental scrap. While in France a D3E (ou DEEE) dentaires are recycled Récyclum (formerly Recydent)

What you can do: Ensure that yours and your family’s false teeth etc are sustainably recycled.

Discover Solution 146: Faux fur

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Categories
Human Effort

144: Fairphone

Problem:

Conflict minerals, including the metals cassiterite, columbite-tantalite and wolframite are natural resources extracted in a conflict zone and sold to directly or indirectly benefit armed groups perpetuate the fighting in countries such as the Congo.

Solution:

The Fairphone


Fairphone was founded in January 2013 beside the River Ij in Amsterdam by Bas van Abel, Tessa Wernink and Miquel Ballester as a social enterprise company, having existed as an anti-conflict minerals campaign for two and a half years.

The company’s website states that its mission is to “bring a fair smartphone to the market – one designed and produced with minimal harm to people and planet”.

To achieve this, Fairphone sourced conflict-free tin and tantalum from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and worked closely with its manufacturers to improve working conditions in its factories.

It was supported in its startup phase by the Waag Society, a foundation which aims to foster experimentation with new technologies, art and culture.

The second version of the company’s device is one of the first modular smartphones available for purchase, focussing on durability, reparability and the availability of spare parts that can be easily replaced to extend the smartphone’s usable life. Building a phone that lasts longer reduces the overall toll on people and the environment.

Although Fairphone’s co-founder and first CEO Bas van Abel was one of the three winners of the German Environmental Award in 2016, he acknowledged in 2017 that it was currently impossible to produce a 100% fair phone, suggesting it was more accurate to call his company’s phones “fairer”.

In 2020, the large-team operator Vodafone and Fairphone announced a strategic partnership to bring ethical Fairphone 3 Smartphone , made with 40% recycled plastics to Vodafone’s European customers. By this time there were over 100,000 Fairphone owners

In 2019 van Abel co-founded the circular start-up De Clique, a logistical service, physical hub and marketing platform to help transform wasted resources from his Utrecht into new products again.

What you can do: Buy and use a Fairphone.

Discover Solution 145: Recycling false teeth

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Materials Human Effort Planet Care Your Home

143: Face masks – recycling

Problem:

Face masks, part of personal protection equipment (PPE) in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, are also proving a major new source of pollution, with used masks seen littering streets, countryside and waterways across the world. Once used, they can be destroyed at CO2 producing hazardous incineration plants or landfilled, publicly and privately.

Solution:

When Plaxtil in Chatelleraut, Vienne France was started up in 2017, it had specialised in the circular economy of recycling clothes by turning them into a plastic-like material. Since June 2020, it has transitioned to recycling masks.


First, they are collected and placed in “quarantine” for four days. They are then ground down into small pieces and subjected to ultraviolet light to ensure they are completely decontaminated before the recycling process begins. The masks could be turned into a vast array of different objects, but for the moment Plaxtil is turning them into products that can be used in the fight against Covid, such as plastic visors.

At first the French company collected 70,000 masks from the 50 collection points that we ourselves set up in the city, producing between 2,000 and 3,000 recycled products. Since July, overwhelmed with requests, Plaxtil has been in contact with the public authorities to set up a national mask recycling channel.(plaxtil.com)

Not far from Plaxtil, is Elise in Lille who have transitioned their conventional waste collection business (from paper to furniture, batteries or even computers) to make COVID-19 waste bins placed at around fifty collection points in Lille alone.

When the bags are full, they are carefully closed and picked up by Elise’s collectors then sent to their premises to be treated in energy recovery. Elise has been able to treat around 200,000 masks for a total weight of 739 kg.

A third company Cosmolys, also near Lille, recovers the polypropylene contained in the masks to produce granules for making garden furniture.

What you can do: Dispose of your masks in an eco-friendly manner.

Discover Solution 144: The Fairphone

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Categories
Human Effort

142: “Ethical” banks

Problem:

There are over 164 million payment cards in circulation in the UK. The vast majority of these cards are made from non-biodegradable plastic such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which contributes to harmful landfill waste.

Solution:

Ethical banks


The Netherlands
In 2017, Dutch-founded ethical bank Triodos launched a current account in line with its values, which includes a biodegradable contactless card made from a plastic substitute called polylactic acid (PLA), which as it is created from renewable sources such as plant leaves and corn, rather than petroleum has not toxic leakage.Only the chip and strip in the Triodos card are not biodegradable, but they are recyclable.

Since 2016, Bevis Watts has been CEO of Triodos Bank UK Ltd. in Bristol. From 2013-16, he had been Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust and Head of Business Support at The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) for 6 years (2001-07), creating their Financial Mechanisms Program.

Triodos’s no-frills account costs £3 a month and comes with no eye-catching offers or temporary bonuses. Instead it offers a simple overdraft and no unplanned borrowing facility, traditionally the most expensive way to borrow.

Customers’ money goes to a whole range of projects including organic farmers, and renewable energy.

For example, a loan from Triodos contributed to TV Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s renovation of the 65-acre organic farm in Devon, home to the famous River Cottage cooking school. It also helped fund the build of Premise Studios, a music studio built with reclaimed and recycled materials, invested in Thrive Renewables, a Caton Moor wind farm which produces enough energy to power 10,000 homes.

Triodos is not alone. ASN Bank is a former Dutch bank, now a brand name for some consumer banking operations by de Volksbank. ASN focusses on socially responsible and sustainable investments. ASN Bank is currently the largest sustainability-driven bank in the Netherlands and was elected as the second most climate-friendly bank in the Netherlands (behind Triodos Bank).

Northern England

The Cumberland Building Society based in Cumbria, has a branch operating area covering Cumbria, South West Scotland, West Northumberland and North Lancashire. The Cumberland recognises that it has an impact on the environment arising from its activities, including the use of energy, the purchase and disposal of materials and equipment and pollution arising from its motor vehicles.

France

France’s la Banque Postale is taking an ethical approach with a few initiatives focused on ecology. On the customer side, the sustainable and solidarity development booklet (LDDS) is intended to support citizen projects linked to the social and solidarity economy.

It is also possible to invest in companies that integrate social or environmental issues into their financial management (renewable energies, circular economy, transport and La Banque Postale announced in 2018 its “carbon neutrality” across its entire operational scope thanks to the internal monetization of its carbon footprint via its “Carbon Fund” launched in 2015. sustainable obilities, green buildings and innovative environmental services).

USA

The online green banking at Aspiration  was founded by Andrei Cherny and Joseph Sanberg at Marina del Rey, California. Unlike many big banks, Aspiration does not invest in fossil fuel funding, so clients’ deposits won’t go towards projects like pipelines, oil drilling, and coal mines. They also have the option to plant a tree with every swipe. And with its Aspiration Plus card—made from recycled ocean plastic—they can carbon-offset all their gas purchases and get 10% cashback when they buy from brands that are part of its Conscience Coalition, like TOMS.

In April 2017, Aspiration launched a feature on its mobile app called Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM), which examines 75,000 data points and shows scores for companies where Aspiration customers shop, based on how those companies treat people and the planet.

China

Green Bond Credit Guidelines were promulgated by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) in February 2012, a milestone directive encouraging Chinese banks to support green, low-carbon and recycling economies; to well manage environmental and social risks in lending service; and to improve sustainable performance in their operations. In 2019, the portfolio of green loans made in The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was worth an estimated US$199 billion,, reaching 8% of its total portfolio

To achieve China’s recent pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, new investment of around 138 trillion yuan (US$20 trillion) will be needed between 2020 and 2050 in the energy system alone, over 2.5% of annual GDP.

Italy and Spain

Banca Popolar Etica in Padua is a cooperative bank operating in Italy and Spain, owned by citizens and social organizations and inspired by the principles of Ethical Finance. With the collected savings Banca Etica provides loans exclusively to people and organizations with sustainable projects in the areas including the environment.

Germany

The UmweltBank, founded in 1997, is also profiting from the boom in ethical banking products. The Nuremburg-based institution boasts that it funds environmental projects exclusively, from building renewable energy sources to funding ecological farming initiatives.
These are just a handful in a growing number of ethical banks ready to support solutions to clean, to repair and to protect the Planet.

What you can do: Use an “Ethical Bank” or ask your own bank what environmental offers it is making.

Discover Solution 143: Recycling pandemic masks

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Categories
Carbon Capture Mobility

141: Ethanol from CO2

Problem:

We are putting too much carbon into our atmosphere.

Solution:

A process for reducing CO₂ by converting it to ethanol has been developed by Michael Köpke at LanzaTech in Skokie, Illinois.


In 2009, Köpke obtained his PhD in microbiology and biotechnology at the University of Ulm, Germany, specialising the genetic engineering of gas fermenting organisms.

His pioneering research on Clostridium ljungdahlii demonstrated for the first time that gas fermenting acetogens can be genetically modified and provided a genetic blueprint of such an organism.

Köpke joined LanzaTech in Auckland, New Zealand, developing converting waste carbon monoxide emitted from factories into ethanol and other chemicals. LanzaTech’s carbon recycling technology is such as retrofitting a brewery onto an emission source such as a steel mill or a landfill site, but instead of using sugars and yeast to make beer, pollution is converted by bacteria to fuels and chemicals.

This is revolutionizing the way the world thinks about waste carbon by treating it as an opportunity instead of a liability.

In its first year, LanzaTech’s first pre-commercial plant in China produced over 100,000 gallons (380,000 liters) of ethanol from steel mill emissions that can be converted into aviation kerosene, plastic and products. This earned it an internationally recognized sustainability certification from the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials in 2013.

Additional facilities may be built in California, Belgium, India, and South Africa. Together, they could produce about 77 million gallons (26 million litres) of ethanol per year from carbon waste.

In 2018, LanzaTech began testing a low carbon fuel for airplanes, which was used to fuel a Virgin Atlantic flight from Orlando to London. Initially its biofuel for Virgin only accounted for 6% of the fuel mix.

The company aims to officially launch its new LanzaJet product in 2019, which could be a potential solution for the airline industry to reduce its waste.

LanzaTech claimed it could have three gas-to-ethanol plants ready in the UK by 2025 if it secured the necessary airline customers and government backing, producing about 125 million gallons (473 million liters) of SAF a year.

In November 2019, after three years of collaboration, ExxonMobil and FuelCell Energy, Inc. signed a new, two-year expanded joint-development agreement to further enhance carbonate fuel cell technology for the purpose of capturing carbon dioxide from industrial facilities.

The agreement, worth up to US$60 million, will focus efforts on optimizing the core technology, overall process integration and large-scale deployment of carbon capture solutions. ExxonMobil is exploring options to conduct a pilot test of next-generation fuel cell carbon capture solution at one of its operating sites.

Discover Solution 142: Ethical banks

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Categories
Carbon Capture

140: Enhanced rock weathering

Problem:

Too much carbon in the atmosphere.

Solution:

Enhanced rock weathering


Professor David Beerling, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield and a team have shown that adding rock dust such as finely crushed basalt, a natural volcanic rock to all cropland soil in China, India, the U.S. and Brazil could trigger weathering that would remove more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year and help meet key global climate targets.

One compelling aspect of enhanced weathering is that, in controlled-environment studies involving basalt amendments of soil, cereal grain yields are improved by roughly 20%.

The scientists suggest that meeting the demand for rock dust to undertake large-scale CO2 drawdown might be achieved by using stockpiles of silicate rock dust left over from the mining industry, and are calling for governments to develop national inventories of these materials.

Discover Solution 141: Ethanol from CO₂

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Materials

139: EnergyXchange

Problem:

Electrically powered ceramic kilns, heated to temperatures of around 1000°C over ten hours, consume a great deal of energy. For just one firing, smaller kilns that operate on a 120-volt standard household outlet will typically draw between 1.5 and 1.8 kilowatts whereas a medium-sized kiln will draw around 5 kW or 8 kW.

Solution:

From 1994, the decomposing garbage (approximately 40 to 60% methane) from a landfill outside Burnsville, nestled in the Black Mountains of western North Carolina, USA was transformed into a source of fuel for pottery kilns, glass furnaces, and greenhouse aided native plants.


Since 2000, the EnergyXchange (now called Earth to Sky Park) has provided rental studio space to over 20 resident artists in a Glass studio and a Clay studio. For the ceramic artists most of the attention has been focused on the gas-fired ceramic kiln which is fueled with the methane gas captured from the landfill.

Discover Solution 140: Enhanced rock weathering

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Planet Care Your Home

138: Endangered Species Adoption

Problem:

Tens of species are vanishing from the face of the Earth every day. Almost one third to one-half of all species could become extinct by 2050. Well over 900 plants and animals are endangered, and hundreds more are threatened. Many of the reasons certain animals are disappearing forever are because of human activities.

Solution:

The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), founded in 1961, has a program “Adopt an animal now”, whereby those interested visit and by one click can choose from their range of adoption animals, donating from £3 per month to protect precious habitats around the world and all the species which rely on them.


The Australian branch of the WWF also presents their own range of threatened species.

Not to be confused, The World Animal Foundation was created in Cleveland, Ohio in 2002 to raise public education regarding the preservation of the planet and the animals that inhabit it. WAF works through public education, research, investigations, animal rescue, legislation, special events and direct action. Three years later it moved its headquarters to Vermilion.

WorldAnimalFoundation.com, acts as a one-stop information portal for people wishing to learn more about animals and the earth.

Visitors can print dozens of free flyers and fact sheets and surf hundreds of pages regarding wildlife, endangered species, companion animals, aquatic animals and farm animals.

One of their solutions is “Adopt an Endangered Species”. WAF Adopt An Endangered Species Animal Kit comes in a deluxe WAF folder and includes:

  • Glossy Photo of Your Adopted Endangered Species Animal
  • Adopt An Endangered Species Animal Adoption Certificate
  • Fact Sheet About Your Adopted Endangered Species Animal
  • Help Animals Info Cards Packed With Information On Animal Issues
  • How You Can Help Animals And The Environment.

Over in France, in 2008, Kevin Desmond, author/compiler of “Planet Savers: 301 Extraordinary Environmentalists”, attempted to set up an ngo EvE-Urgent.org, short for Espèce-ville espèce (species-town-species) whereby towns and cities worldwide were each encouraged to adopt a threatened species as its totem and to take measures to protect it and its ecosystem from extinction.

To select their species a town had decided to sponsor, the EvE-Urgent website recommended looking for it in the local biodiversity or consulting the Natura 2000 network. But nothing prevented them from choosing one abroad. In order to avoid duplication, an “EvE counter” for the participating cities was set up.

Once the species had been chosen and the information about it has been collected, the project can be presented to the municipality. But “the engagement of the town hall is not obligatory”, the site specified.

In case of refusal, citizens could themselves create an association with the help of EvE-Urgent.org in order to contribute to the protection of the species, either by collaborating with specialized NGOs, or by acting directly on the ground. Fund-raising events, cultural and sporting could raise funds for the species chosen.

Among the first to adopt was the city of Bordeaux choosing the Angélique des estuaries which grows alongside the River Garonne and subsequently creating a Park named after the species. Although never developed, the EvE-Urgent solution could still be used….

What you can do: Adopt at least one threatened species.

Discover solution 139: Using landfill gas for ceramic kilns

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Categories
Human Effort

137: Vaccine ( mRNA)

Problem:

With the speed and frequency of global transport by sea and air involving the mass movement of millions of passengers, on the outbreak of a life-threatening virus there is always the problem of the speed at which a vaccine can be trialled, manufactured and made avail able

Solution:


First pioneered in the 1990s, mRNA (Messenger Ribonucleic acid) vaccines represent a promising alternative to conventional vaccine approaches because of their high potency, capacity for rapid development and potential for low-cost manufacture and safe administration.

Late in 2019, Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified in Wuhan, China. As of 2 March 2020, more than 89,000 people across 58 countries had now been diagnosed with the infection, while the death toll globally had exceeded 3,000. The race was on to find a vaccine and the challenge taken up by six drug companies across the world.

As one example, 42 days after receiving the genetic sequence of the COVID_19 virus, called SARS-CoV-2, from Chinese researchers, Moderna Therapeutics, a biotech company based in Norwood, Massachusetts shipped the first batches of its Mrna-1273 vaccine.

Hundreds of vials were sent to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. A team led by Dr Stephen Hoge at Moderna had loaded its vaccine with mRNA that coded for the right coronavirus proteins which could then be injected into the body.

Immune cells in the lymph nodes could process that mRNA and start making the protein in just the right way for other immune cells to recognize and mark them for destruction. Like a software molecule in biology, this vaccine method can be scaled up quickly, saving critical time.

By mid March, human trials had already begun with a group of 45 healthy volunteers getting three doses of the vaccination 28 days apart. They were administered the 25-microgram dose level or the 100-microgram dose level, the low and the middle levels, In May 18 Moderna announced that all 45 participants had developed some antibodies in their blood that bound the virus.

The company began its second phase with The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting the Moderna Fast Track Designation to begin the mid-stage study soon with 600 patients.. In July 2020, Moderna announced that its Mrna-1273 candidate in Phase 1 clinical testing had led to production of neutralizing antibodies in healthy adults.

Phase 3 could begin. The trial conducted at U.S. clinical research sites, would enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers who did not have COVID-19. The trial is designed to evaluate the safety of mRNA-1273 and to determine if the vaccine can prevent symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses.

Under a deal with the US Government, worth up to $1.525 billion, Moderna agreed to deliver 100 million doses of its mRNA vaccine candidate if it succeeds in late-stage testing. The deal does not stipulate a timeline for vaccine shipments, at least publicly, but does include “incentive payments for timely delivery,” Moderna says. The pact also includes an option for another 400 million doses. (modernatx.com)

Moderna has not been alone in mRNA research. On November 9th a team led by Mikael Dolsetn at Pfizer Inc of New York and BioNTech SE of Mainz, Germany publically announced their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, based on the first interim efficacy analysis conducted on November 8, 2020 by an external, independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) from the Phase 3 clinical study.

Following safety tests on 43,500 people in six countries, a preliminary analysis has shown that BNT162b2 can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19. The two companies say they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020 and around 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Each person needs two doses.

Pfizer/BioNTech started the phase 3 clinical trial around the same time as Moderna. But while the former give the booster shot for their vaccine 21 days after the initial dose, the latter’s protocol calls for doctors to wait 28 days before giving the second dose.

This vaccine needs to be stored at minus 80c. This could create major logistical challenges for mass treatment outside major urban areas and in low or middle income countries.

On November 16th Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer at Moderna announced that its mRNA-1273 vaccine, remaining stable at minus 20c is able to protect 94.5% of people tested and hopes to have 20 million doses available in the USA, with one billion doses worldwide.

It has since been authorized in Europe (EMA), the USA, Canada. Hundreds of millions of doses will soon be administered.
There are of course several other serious contenders in the race to obtain efficient and reliable COVID-19 vaccines.

Discover Solution 138: Adopting endangered species

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Categories
Energy

136: Gravity-based energy storage system

Problem:

The energy provided by sun and wind is intermittent and often needs a back-up system;

Solution:

The gravity-based energy storage system


One of these is the Energy Vault. When a solar farm produces extra electricity during the day, giant robotic cranes use that energy to lift and stack thousands of 38.5 ton (35 tonne) blocks into a tower as high as 500 ft. (152 m) the bricks storing energy through the elevation gain.

When the sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing, software tells the system to lower the bricks, the weight of which will drive generators as the crane plucks them off the tower and lowers them to the ground, so sending electricity back into the grid. The system can respond within a millisecond.


The development of this technology took place at Idealab, the Pasadena, California-based startup incubator, then was handed to Energy Vault, to commercialize the technology.

In partnership with Italian energy company ENEL, a tenth the size of a full-scale operation was built and trialled in Biasca, Switzerland, north of Milan, Italy. A Swiss subsidiary of Mexico-based CEMEX Ventures provided venture capital, concrete and other composite material technology.

The unit, from proposition to working prototype, took about nine months and less than US$2 million to accomplish. The Energy Vault team was led by Andrea Pedretti, inventor with more than 25 patents worldwide for a variety of civil engineering and energy applications.

Having earned his M.Sc. in structural engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Pedretti worked with Airlight Energy, a Swiss cleantech provider focusing on unique solutions for concentrated solar power.

The Energy Vault system could deliver as much as 80 MW-hours of power, enough to cover about 60,000 homes for up to 16 hours The system is modular and flexible with each plant having a capacity of between 10 and 35MWh and a power output of between 2 and 5MW.

Each tower can be erected quickly; the cranes can be delivered within months and erected within weeks, without the huge investment of a battery factory.

The bricks themselves can be made on-site from materials such as soil concrete construction debris which would otherwise go to a landfill. At a coal plant that plans to close and reopen renewable energy on-site, the bricks could be made from coal ash.

India’s Tata Power is the company’s first announced customer, with a tower that will be constructed in 2021. But Energy Vault is in talks with other customers about more than 1,200 potential towers.

In August 2019, Energy Vault raised US$110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund to take its next steps in the world. One place where the Energy Vault technology could be used to advantage is around desalination plants in places such as sub-Saharan Africa or desert areas.

In Scotland , Peter Fraenkel at Gravitricity is working with the Edinburgh University Institute for Energy Systems and Dutch winch and offshore manufacturer Huisman Equipment BV on a solution in the 1MW to 20 MW power range which suspends weights of 500 – 5000 tonnes in a deep shaft by a number of cables, each of which is engaged with a winch capable of lifting its share of the weight.

The pilot plant, involving a 16m high rig is being assembled at a grid-connected site at the port of Leith for testing to begin in spring 2021.

What you can do: Tell electricity supply companies and town planners about gravity-based energy storage systems

Discover Solution 137: mRNA vaccine

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Energy

135: Honeybee-inspired energy reduction

Problem:

Energy over-consumption in big commercial buildings makes a massive drain on electrical energy

Solution:

Inspired by biomimicry, In 2005, Mark Kerbel and Roman Kulyk of Toronto, Canada studied the way bees communicate with each other.


There is no “topdown” management in a hive. They realized the ideal concept for their technology when they read Steven Johnson’s “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software”. Emergence is how bees are able to operate an adaptive colonial group, despite lacking top-down management or “intelligence” in the human sense of the word. Using simple rules and communicating constantly with pheromone trails, each individual bee contributes to the hive-level goal of survival.

The phenomenon is called “emergence” because a complex system of communication and decision-making emerges from a large number of much simpler interactions.

Kerbel and Kulyk developed an algorithm called Swarm Logic that allows all pieces of building equipment to simultaneously detect each other, to red-flag unnecessary power consumption. Air conditioners, compressors, pumps and other building appliances constantly cycle on and off. The problem arises when they are ignorant of each other and turn on at the same time.

Co-founding Regen Energy, they developed the EnviroGrid Controller to connect to the control box on each piece of equipment, to function as a smart power switch. EnviroGrid Controllers could be installed on any electrical heating, cooling, or discretionary electrical load in approximately 30 minutes, resulting in minimal operational disruption.

Each device monitors its appliance’s energy use every two minutes and broadcasts its reading to all the other controllers in the system. Once several controllers have been activated, they learn the power cycles of each appliance and use a networking standard called Zigbee to communally negotiate the best times to turn equipment on and off.

Every node connected to the “hive” thinks for itself. Before making a decision, a node considers the circumstances of other nodes in the network. For example, if an HVAC unit needs to cycle on to maintain a minimum temperature, a node connected to another HVAC unit will stay off for an extra 15 minutes to maintain power use below a certain threshold. This results in up to 20% reductions in HVAC kW, KWh, and CO₂,

Following their 2005 start, Kerbel and Kulyk negotiated with both other California and Texas utilities to increase their presence in both regions. Their name changed to Encycle in 2013, Swarm Logic can now be connected via the cloud to an existing building control system, building automation system (BAS), connected thermostats, or IoT platform.

Swarm Logic dynamically synchronizes HVAC rooftop units (RTUs), transforming the RTUs into smart, networked, energy-responsive assets. Newer versions of the system focus almost exclusively on rooftop HVAC systems installed in medium-sized buildings. A typical building might have between 10 and 40 controllers working together to mimic the communications in a beehive, and the more nodes are linked to the system, the better it works.

Encycle has integrated Honeywell thermostats into its EASE (Energy as a Service by Encycle™) solution for a nationwide restaurant and entertainment business. With customer satisfaction being a top priority, it was crucial that Encycle’s solution lower electricity costs while ensuring patrons’ comfort.

What started out as a 6-site pilot program has now developed into a 17-site portfolio with over 300 thermostats. Encycle’s Swarm Logic technology is already in facilities in North America, including retail stores, grocery stores, shopping centers, restaurants, entertainment venues, offices, schools, distribution centers, and light/medium manufacturing buildings.

From August 2018 Encycle partnered with Lightstat of Barkhamsted, Connecticut to bring IoT-enabled thermostatic control into a networked, cloud-based system that allows commercial and industrial building energy managers to reduce their HVAC energy consumption and costs by 10-20%. They also partnered with Carrier Connect, makers of Wi-Fi thermostats.

What you can do: Tell local architects and builders about Swarm Logic

Discover Solution 136: Gravity based energy storage system

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Energy Mobility

134: Energy roads


Problem:

Highways and roads only use up energy to build and to maintain.

Solution:

Engineers from Lancaster University, UK, are working on ‘piezolectric’ ceramics that when embedded in road surfaces would be able to harvest and convert vehicle vibration into electrical energy. The research project, led by Professor Mohamed Saafi, will design and optimise energy recovery of around one to two kWs per kilometre under ‘normal’ traffic volumes—which is around 2,000 to 3,000 cars an hour. The system developed will then convert this mechanical energy into electric energy to power things such as street lamps, traffic lights and electric car charging points.


In Portugal, an energy road system called ESPHERA has been financed by the Centre for the Innovation of Smart Infrastructures, founded by Ferrovial, the Castile-La Mancha regional government and the University of Alcalá. Ferrovial is also in charge of technical coordination for ESPHERA, which has benefitted from the collaboration of Cintra (the motorway subsidiary company of Ferrovial) and the Aravía Company, who hold the concession for the maintenance of the section of the A-2 motorway between Zaragoza and Calatayud. (ferrovial.com)

In 2016 the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals were installed on several freeways.

Scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10 mi (16 km) stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000). Italy signed a contract to install this technology in a portion of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada.

China’s first solar highway was built by Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation in eastern China’s Shandong province on a section of one of the most highly-trafficked areas, the Jinan City Expressway ring road, stretching for 1.2 mi. (2.4 km) with an area of 63,234 ft² ( 5,875 m²).. The test section proved capable of holding middle size vans with strong friction. Engineers then added wireless vehicle charging into the panels. It opened in December 2017.

In 2019, engineers from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) found a way to 3D print piezoelectric materials, so tailoring the architecture to make them more flexible able to wrap them around any arbitrary curvature.

What you can do: Drive along energy roads once they have been installed

Discover Solution 135: Honeybee inspired energy reduction

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Energy Mobility

133: Energy paths

Problem:

With the transition from fossil fuel to electrical energy, the exponential demand will need the widest variety of sources.

Solution:

Another clean system for generating electricity makes use of piezo materials (usually in the form of the mineral quartz, topaz, or lead zirconate titanate), where the simple act of walking or jumping or driving a vehicle over a surface can generate electricity.


This challenge has been taken on by Laurence Kemball-Cook, an undergraduate studying Industrial Design and Technology at Loughborough University, England. Following the publicity generated by a short demonstration film of his PaveGen tiles posted on his website Kemball-Cook, was awarded US$ 13,000 prize and struck a US$ 250,000 deal with one of the largest urban shopping centers in Europe, Westfield in London. PaveGen received orders from at Heathrow Airport”s Terminal Three and entered into collaboration with the US government.

In Lagos, Nigeria, the tiles have been installed under a soccer field, enabling players to light up the entire field during a match. A second generation of PavGen tiles is triangular in shape, with a generator in each corner to maximize energy output. In addition to power generation, PaveGen can use Bluetooth to connect to smartphone applications and the system can also communicate with building management systems.

Caveat to this solution is that when the PaveGen is not being walked on it does not generate energy, this problem occurs if the tile is placed somewhere that is crowded but at times does not receive any people on it which causes it to not generate energy. But this problem can be largely avoided by just placing the tiles in places that always receive people such as the subway stations of New York or other similarly crowded cities.

At the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2017, Ilan Stern, a senior research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and colleagues, collaborated on a project supported by NASA contractor Delaware North Corporation to build a 40,000 ft² (3,700 m²) lighted outdoor piezoelectric footpath.

What you can do: Tell town councils near you about energy paths, wand walk along them whenever possible

Discover Solution 134: Energy roads

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Energy Your Home

132: Energy communities

Problem:

Sustainable energy limited to individual domestic use may not be the most beneficially efficient solution.

Solution:

Energy sharing is a model where citizens can exchange locally produced power with one another (peer-to-peer) — or external markets.


The EU Directive 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources defines peer-to-peer trading of renewable energy as: “The sale of renewable energy between market participants by means of a contract with pre-determined conditions governing the automated execution and settlement of the transaction, either directly between market participants or indirectly through a certified third-party market participant, such as an aggregator.”

The Energy Community, also referred to in the past as the Energy Community of South East Europe is an international organisation established between the European Union and a number of third countries to extend the EU internal energy market to Southeast Europe and beyond.

One example, Decidim is a collaborative project which encourages citizens of Barcelona to use a digital, open-source participatory platform to suggest, debate, comment and back new proposals for the city. The platform is a concrete output of the 2015-2019 municipal plan called “73 neighbourhoods, one Barcelona, Towards the city of rights and opportunities” and which gathered the input of some 40,000 people.

Catalonia’s first renewable energy cooperative, Som Energia, has used the Decidim platform to host its 2018 General Assembly and various debates with cooperative

What you can do: Check out whether you can become part of an energy community.

Discover Solution 133: Electricity from sidewalks

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Materials Carbon Capture

131: Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (“EC3”)

Problem:

Over the average 30-year lifecycle of a new building completed in 2019, roughly half if its carbon materials will come from embodied carbon. Considering that materials used for construction are estimated to consume 75 % of all new materials annually by volume, the case for reducing the carbon emissions embodied in building materials is clear.

Solution:

For Skanska of New Jersey, the USA’s investment in addressing the embodied carbon challenge began in 2016, through its ongoing internal Innovation Grant program. Stacy Smedley, regional director of sustainability for Skanska’s building operations based in Seattle, Washington, received funding to research and establish embodied carbon benchmarks in partnership with the University of Washington’s Carbon Leadership Forum.


Working with with Phil Northcott of C Change Labs in Coquitlam, British Columbia, the program called was jointly seed-funded by Skanska and Microsoft.  They determined that a collaborative, open-source solution, backed by a comprehensive database of digitized Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)  was the best way to maximize the impact of this groundbreaking tool in reducing global carbon emissions.

There are over 16,000 materials in the database, including concrete, steel and gypsum. Professionals, contractors, and owners needing actionable data to make informed decisions about climate impact and performance will benefit.

In the fall of 2019, Skanska launched the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (“EC3”) web tool for a non-profit alliance of AEC firms, manufacturers, foundations, and building owners including the Carbon Leadership Forum, American Institute of Architects, American Institute of Steel Construction, Skanska, Autodesk, Arup, Interface, the MKA Foundation, Charles Pankow Foundation, ACI Foundation, Microsoft and 30 other industry leaders. (usa.skanska.com)

In 2020, Costain-Skanska Joint Venture (CSjv) and Skanska-Costain-Strabag have developed the EasyCabin EcoSmart ZERO for building sites, its hydrogen and solar power replacing the traditional diesel generator. to achieve Skanska’ commitment to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050.

What you can do: Inform builders and architects in your region about EC3

Discover Solution 132: Energy communities

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Your Home Materials

130: Elevating house

Problem:

IPCC scientists expect a warming world to lead to more extreme rainfall, exposing an additional 250,000 to 400,000 people in Europe to river flooding, and potentially up to 5.5 million per year to coastal flooding.

Solution:

Since 2016, Tom Kelly and Graham Hicks of the UK-based Larkfleet Group, have been working on an experimental house that could rise on jacks above floodwaters. The 72 tons (65 tonne) house could be raised 4.5 ft. (1.5 m.) in less than five minutes.


In October 2017, South Holland District Council Planners gave permission for Larkfleet Homes in Lincolnshire, to build a test house in a paddock in Weston Hills near Spalding. Oddly, the developers, who believe it is the world’s first such home, have not been allowed to place it on a flood plain. If tests are successful the house could provide a model that would enable housebuilding on thousands of sites across the UK which at present cannot be developed because of the risk of flooding.

Once built, experiments with raising and lowering the house, including testing long-term maintenance and operation of the jacking system, will take place. Because the house will be of modular steel-frame design it can then be disassembled and re-erected on another site on conventional foundations as a family residence.

It is anticipated that houses of this design would be jacked up well ahead of the arrival of flood waters, based on advance warnings from organisations such as the Environment Agency. Rooftop solar panels and a battery would provide the house with some continuing electricity supply when raised above the ground and the water and sewage would remain connected through flexible hoses.

However, it is not envisaged that residents would remain in occupation during floods. Instead, the householders would pack up, lock up and jack up the home before taking refuge in temporary accommodation on higher ground elsewhere.

What you can do: Search out protective solutions if you choose to live or work beside seas or rivers.

Discover Solution 131: carbon footprint calculator for builders

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Planet Care Your Home

129: Elevated villages

Problem:

AGW causing the rise in global sea levels has been flooding the Pacific atoll nations such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Maldives, and the Marshall Islands. This also includes Vanua Levu, the second largest of Fiji’s 106 habitable islands in the South Pacific and villages such as Vunidogoloa in Korolao District.

Solution:

Elevated villages.


In 2006, the Fijian Government decided to abandon the flooded village and build a new Vunidogoloa for its 130 inhabitants, a couple of miles (2 km) inland. Eight years and half a million dollars later, on the January 16, 2014, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji inaugurated the new village of thirty timbered homes on stilts on a hillside.

Further Fijian villages have been completely relocated and two are in the initial stages of moving: Denimanu (Yadua Island) and Vunisavisavi, both of which have been provided with cyclone-proof houses donated by USAID. This leaves about 40 villages earmarked for relocation in the short to medium term as sea levels continue to rise. In 2015, a Fijian official said the government was looking at possibly relocating as many as 676 villages.

Other alternative solutions for flooding villages will include dredging and reclaiming land.

 

Discover Solution 130: Keeping your house out of the water

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Your Home

128: Nickel-iron based electrolysis

Problem:

Currently the most popular system used for water splitting, or water electrolysis, relies on precious – hence very expensive – metals such as platinum and iridium as catalysts.

Solution:

An electrolyzer based on nickel and iron, elements that are less expensive and more abundant in the environment.


Yu Seung Kim, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Yuehe Lin of Washington State University’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, have developed a system that uses less expensive and more abundant materials. They worked to solve this problem by splitting water under alkaline, or basic, conditions with an anion exchange membrane electrolyzer based on nickel and iron, elements that are less expensive and more abundant in the environment.

By 2023, the global hydrogen generation market is anticipated to reach $199.1 billion. Promising markets for hydrogen energy comprise everything from power grid management and mass-energy conversion to fuel cells for cars. According to the duo, around 600 wind farms in the United States are prepared for direct connections to water electrolysis systems.

Discover Solution 129: Safety from flooding on higher ground

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Energy Planet Care

127: Electroculture

Problem:

Chemical fertilisers and weed killers such as Monsanto’s glyphosate have been legally proved to be lethally harmful to both Nature and to human beings.

Solution:

Since the beginnings of electricity in the 1780s, experiments have been made to use electro-magnetic energy to increase the crop yield of fruits and vegetables.


In 1923 independent researcher Justin Etienne Christofleau of La Queue-les-Yvelines, France published “Augmentation des récoltes et sauvetage des arbres malades per l’électroculture” and obtained patents concerning his Electro-Magnétique Terro Celeste. His system made use of “lightning rod” antenna, but with a buried antenna connected to buried north-south wires. Christofleau explained that it is not electricity as we know it but a breath of energy between heaven and earth, which stimulates and increases the fertility of the place.

For the next twenty years, the Frenchman was persecuted for his inventions by lobbyists from the agrochemical industry who even attempted to have the word electroculture deleted from national dictionaries and encyclopaedias. In spite of this, Christofleau’s system was adopted by farmers all over, in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and even China.

He was not alone. In the August 1935 issue of Popular Science, an article entitled “Electricity Controls Tree Growth” reported on the experiments of reputed French nurseryman Georges Truffaut at his Laboratories in Versailles. He planned to invent the orchard of the future where it would be possible to control (advance or delay) the growth of trees and fruits.

Seventy years later, electroculture has finally been validated.

Since the 1990s, Chinese scientists have been developing electroculture. In 2019, The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and other government research institutes released the findings of nearly three decades of study in areas with different climate, soil conditions and plantation habits. They hailed the results as a breakthrough.

Across the country, from Xinjiang’s remote Gobi Desert to the developed coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean, vegetable greenhouse farms with a combined area of more than 3,600 ha (8,895 ac) have been taking part in an electroculture programme. The technique has boosted vegetable output by 20 to 30 %. Pesticide use has decreased 70 to 100 %. while fertiliser consumption has dropped more than 20 %.

In a series of large greenhouses, with a combined area of 3,600 has (8,895 ac), the vegetables grow under bare copper wires, set about 10 ft (3 m) above ground level and stretching end to end under the greenhouse roof. The wires are capable of generating rapid, positive charges as high as 50,000 volts, or more than 400 times the standard residential voltage in the US.

The cables run the full length of the greenhouses and carry rapid pulses of positive charge, up to 50,000 volts. These high-voltage bursts kill bacteria and viral plant diseases both in the air and the soil. They also affect the surface tension of any water droplets on the leaves of plants, accelerating vaporization.

What you can do: Tell local farmers about electroculture

Tomorrow’s solution: Lower-cost electrolysis

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Energy

126: Electricity from bacterial nano-wires

Solution:

Bacterial power plants.


In the late 1980s, microbiologists led by Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discovered electrically conducting microfilaments or “nanowires” in the rod-shaped microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens, part of a group referred to as “electrigens” for their known ability to generate an electrical charge.

Jim Yao and another team at the University have succeeded in producing electricity using a bacterial nanowire, measuring seven micrometers thick film positioned between two electrodes and exposed to the air.

This nanowire film, produced by G. sulfurreducens, absorbs water vapor present in the atmosphere, thus creating a small electrical charge through the diffusion of protons in the material.

In order to better understand this electron transfer process for energy production, Geobacter sulfurreducens was inoculated into chambers in which a graphite electrode served as the sole electron acceptor and acetate or hydrogen was the electron, or in short a microbial fuel cell

Called Air-gen, the system produces a sustained voltage of 0.5 volts at 17 micro amperes per square centimetre, generating clean energy 24/7. The system produces no waste and could (theoretically at least) work in places like the Sahara Desert which is why the team are looking to scale up to industrial-sized systems as soon as possible.

One issue is the limited amount of protein nanowire that can currently be produced by G. sulfurreducens, however, there may already be a novel solution: get genetically engineered E. coli to mass produce the nanowire.

Discover Solution 127: Protecting and feeding plants with an electric current.

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Mobility

125: Electric boat as microgrid

Problem:

After a hurricane of Category 4-5, the entire population of a devastated island has no electricity.

Solution:

An electric boat as microgrid.


When the first 12 pax solar boats were built in 1995 by MW-Line in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, the 75ft (23 m) Solifleur and Chlorophylle were operated by Pro Natura for nature excursions on the Lake of Neuchâtel.

Suggested and implemented by Theodor Schmidt, these were the first solar boats to be fitted with a mains connection in order to feed extra solar energy into the 230V grid when the boats are not being used.

Twenty-four years later, researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia created an system that can theoretically turn electric boats into small renewable power plants. They tested the algorithm with a microgrid in their lab, using four 6-volt gel batteries connected in a 24-V series as a stand-in for a boat. To implement this approach, they would need an electric boat with its own PV system, which would charge the boat’s batteries when the boat was moored.

Then when the boat is docked, it could act as a small power plant, providing electricity to homes on an island. If Indonesia, for example, were hit with a natural disaster, those microgrids could be destroyed.

Even Indonesia’s widely electrified islands may be impacted. With the new approach, the Indonesian government could use the boats it sent with food and supplies to also provide power. In their experiment, they found that the algorithm could manage power flows reliably enough to allow electric boats to provide peak load support to a grid directly after a trip.

With the algorithm in place, boat owners could decide when to sell electricity, and how much they wanted to sell. They might, for example, set their system to automatically sell 10 % of its stored energy, and only if the batteries are at least halfway charged. Boats are uniquely positioned to provide this kind of service, the researchers point out. Electric cars do not generally have their own PV system.

So instead of adding power to the grid such as a boat could, electric cars draw from it. The proposed technology works pretty similarly to the microgrids that are gradually rolling out in Indonesia. Those microgrids also contain PVs to collect energy and li-ion batteries to store it, but there is . one key difference: portability.

When some natural disaster occurs in dispersed islands, the electricity networks or generation systems are heavily damaged, and residents live without electricity for weeks. In this case, consumers having this technology can immediately get their power.

The concept is still in its infancy, but the University of New South Wales team expects to get its algorithm out of the lab and into the ocean by testing it with an actual electric boat in the near future.

Discover solution 126: Electricity from microbes

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Human Effort Your Home

124: Effective altruism

Problem:

Our hyper-consumer world soils, hurts and exhausts the Planet.

Solution:

Giving of time and money more effectively.


In 2009, Toby Ord and William MacAskill, philosophy professors at Oxford University launched a community around Ord’s “Giving What We Can”, and MacAskill’s “80,000 Hours” (You have 80,000 hours in your career. How can you best use them to help solve the world’s most pressing problems?).

Ord’s earlier work had explored the ethics of global health and global poverty, demonstrating that aid has been highly successful on average and has the potential to be even more successful if we were to improve our priority setting

This led him to create an international society called Giving What We Can, whose members have pledged over $600 million to the most effective charities helping to improve the world.

Giving What We Can (GWWC) members have pledged to donate at least 10% of their income for the remainder of their working lives to the causes that they believe are the most effective.

Ord and MacAskill founded the wider effective altruism movement, encouraging thousands of people to use reason and evidence to help others as much as possible.

The Centre for Effective Altruism inspires critical thinking by applying evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to improve the world.

Effective altruism can add meaning to our lives and can help us in finding fulfilment in what we do. Many effective altruists say that in doing good, they feel good.

Ord has advised the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the US National Intelligence Council, the UK Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet Office, and Government Office for Science. His work has been featured more than a hundred times in the national and international media.

Factoring in these aspects, EA activists usually come to the conclusion that the three most-pressing issues for humanity are: extreme poverty, animal suffering, and what they call “long-term future.” This is basically the minimization of global catastrophic risks, also known as existential risks.

What you can do: Be altruistic and help others less fortunate than yourself.

Tomorrow’s solution: Electric boats supplying the grid

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Planet Care

123: e-faunalert

Problem:

The disappearance of raptors is an increasingly alarming problem in the Mediterranean. Collisions and electrocutions on power lines are among the biggest threats affecting populations in the region.

Solution:


To tackle this issue, IUCN’s Center for Mediterranean Cooperation (IUCN-Med) has developed the free mobile application e-faunalert, which helps both to identify and map dangerous areas posing an electrocution or collision risk for these species on such infrastructures.

Conceived for all types of users, from scientists, to the conservation community, governments, energy sector stakeholders to general global audiences, e-faunalert helps to collect data to quickly identify areas of intervention and thus facilitate decision-making in the planning of future power lines.

Moreover, the app contains information on the technical characteristics of pylons and different types of electrocution or collision incidents. It also allows to download georeferenced images, create and join workgroups to maximize fieldwork, as well as sharing data with other colleagues.

The programme has made it possible for specialists from Spain and North Africa to exchange information, organize cross-border expeditions with Moroccan and Spanish ornithologists to monitor and create a census of raptors in Morocco.

This tool has been developed in collaboration with Fundación Amigos del Águila Imperial Ibérica, el Lince Ibérico y Espacios Naturales Privados and is part of the project Safe Flyways – reducing infrastructure-related bird mortality in the Mediterranean”, funded by the MAVA Foundation.

What you can do: Download e-faunalert for your locality.

Discover Solution 124: effective altruism

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Planet Care

122: Mercator Climate Clocks

Problem:

Clocks have remained limited to telling the time, sometimes indicating the hours, minutes and seconds left before a NewYear. How can they indicate that time is running out?

Solution:


The Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin have developed Carbon Clock which digitally shows how much CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C, respectively. With just a few clicks, you can compare the estimates for both temperature targets and see how much time is left in each scenario.

The Climate Clock widget

You can get one for your device or website at climateclock.world

Metronome, ticking away since 1999, is a public art installation and digital clock made of large orange LED digits and embedded on the side of a sky scraper at the south end of Union Square in New York City.

In 2020, it was re-programmed as an MCC climate clock by artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan to illustrate a critical window for action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible.

From Saturday September 19, 2020, to coincide with the beginning of Climate Week in NYC, Metronome started showing the time remaining until the Earth’s carbon budget is used up as a result of concerns related to global warming above the 1.5°C threshold that was outlined in the Paris Agreement.

The fifteen digits counted down the years (1 digit), days (3 digits), hours (2 digits), minutes (2 digits), and seconds (2 digits) from left to right, in conventional 24-hour format with spaces to the left of each digit. It is called a “climate clock”.

The renamed Climate Clock unveiled by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd warned at 1:30 p.m. Monday that there were 7 years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds until Earth’s carbon budget is depleted, based on current emission rates. Golan and Boyd’s first Climate Clock was displayed on September 18, 2019 on a former gasometer in Berlin, Germany. They’ve also made a personal countdown clock for teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg

Based on the amount of carbon used every day (at 2017 levels), 1.5 degrees of warming will occur in about seven and a half years. The Union Square Climate Clock now puts a countdown to that deadline in one of New York’s most public places.

All the more reasons that the solutions to be found on this website should be stepped up.

What you can do: Keep an eye on climate clocks!

Discover Solution 123: an App to monitor threatened raptors

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Human Effort Materials Your Home

121: Edible water bubbles

Problem:

About 50 billion single-use plastic water bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are produced in the United States each year, and most are discarded. The properties that make PET useful as a packaging material (stability and durability) also make it resistant to breaking down after its useful life is over.

Solution:

Edible water bubbles.


The idea of an edible biodegradable capsule for artificial edible cherries, soft sheets, and the like, called spherification, was first patented in London by Unilever engineer William Peschardt in 1942. More recently the method was introduced into modernist cooking by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià.

The most recent adaptation has been made by Pierre-Yves Paslier of Skipping Rocks Lab. Paslier started his career as a packaging engineer for L’Oréal in the daytime and hacking 3D-printers in his living room at night.

He then decided to study design at the RCA and in 2013, he co-designed one of the first consumer delta 3D-printers. Paslier left L’Oréal in 2012 to start a Masters degree in innovation, design and engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, where he set about brainstorming non-plastic container designs.

He and classmate Rodrigo García González studied the properties of watermelons, tomatoes, coconuts and tapioca to understand how natural foods hold liquids. They finally settled on seaweed as their material of choice.

They called their edible water ball, made by dropping ice into separate solutions of calcium salt and “Notpla” a brown sodium alginate, the Ooho.

You can drink them by tearing a hole into the skin and pouring the water into your mouth, or they can be consumed whole. Containing 100 ml of liquid, the balls can be produced by a compact machine at their point of sale, eliminating the need for cups.

In 2014 Paslier and Gonzales founded Gravity Sketch, a VR 3D design platform and Skipping Rocks Lab, a sustainable packaging company, in London’s East End.

A crowd sourcing campaign as well as its accompanying YouTube went viral enabling Skipping Rocks to raise more than US$ 1 M from 1,000 investors in a mere three days. The manufacturing processes are covered under a Creative Commons license, making the recipe freely distributed and readily available for anyone to use.

In July 2018, they launched sauce sachets made from the seaweed material, which were on a six-week trial at 10 London takeaways with the delivery service Just Eat. Following the success of the trial, 10 London restaurants further trialled this product for 8 weeks, which is expected to prevent approximately 40,000 plastic sauce packets from entering homes.

Ginger and fruit juice shots were delivered to Selfridges department store, and the product was sold at UK music festivals as edible alcohol shots, including espresso martini and tequila sunrise.

In April 2019, when more than 41,000 people running in the London Marathon reached reach mile 23, thanks to Lucozade Ribena Suntory, they were handed Oohos instead of bottles. However, a video surfaced that showed streets strewn with plastic waste after the race was over.

That September, the Harrow half marathon in London replaced single use bottles and cups with Oohos. Paslier and Gonzalez are now experimenting with on green alternatives to cling film and the plastic liners used in throwaway coffee cups and ways to replace plastic toiletries bottles in hotel rooms.

What you can do: Discover Oohos or plan for the extended use of bottles and flasks.

Discover solution 122: The Climate Clock

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Human Effort Materials

120: Edible packaging

Problem:

Seafaring turtles and gulls die, ensnared and poisoned in the net like plastic rings that yoke six-packs of canned beverages together.

Solution:

Edible and 100% biodegradable six-pack rings.


In 2012, Chris Gove and Justin Jeffers founded of SaltWater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida, USA with a mission to not only brew good beer, but to give back to our oceans.

As part of this initiative, in 2017, they developed six-pack rings E6PR which are 100 % biodegradable and edible, constructed of barley and wheat ribbons from the brewing process. E6PR is said to provide the strength necessary to hold cans through distribution.

The carrier is also designed to be compostable, both on land and if left in a water system where the organic materials are said not to harm wildlife upon ingestion. Packaging is done on-site with the brewery’s in-house canning line, as well as their new in-line labeler for seasonal and special releases.

It took about 18 months for the sustainable packaging to be fully adopted throughout all of SaltWater’s distribution network. The rings developed by E6PR are now used by 35 brewers across the globe, including in Africa, Europe, and Australia.

The industry has yet to settle on a single supplier or format that could fully replace plastic six-pack rings. In 2018, Corona became the first major global beer brand to pilot E6PR’s technology, they are also considering interlocking cans that can screw into each other.

Molson Coors has vowed it would aim for all its packaging to be reusable, recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025. The Coors Light and Miller Lite brewer says an increased focus on finding sustainable packaging solutions is coming from all sides: consumers, retailers, and investors. They commissioned manufacturer Footprint to make compostable, biodegradable rings for a small test run of the craft brand AC Golden in Colorado.

Carlsberg is working with German supplier NMP Systems GmbH in using glue to adhere cans in a production method that the Danish brewer says would avoid using 1,200 tons of plastic annually, or the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags, once fully adopted. Carlsberg is also tinkering with the inks on labels to improve recyclability, using recycled materials in wrapping where plastic is needed and ending coal use at nine breweries in China as it aims for zero carbon dioxide emissions. (nmp.khs.com)

John Kell, “Beermakers Are Experimenting With New—and Sustainable—Six-Pack Designs,” Fortune, September 2, 2019.

What you can do: When buying cans or bottles of beverages, make sure that the packaging is biodegradable.

Discover solution 121: Edible water bubbles aka Ooho!

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Human Effort Materials Your Home

119: Edible cutlery and crockery

Problem:

Plastic cutlery is a major contributor to the growing plastic waste crisis. An estimated 40 billion plastic utensils are used and thrown away each year in the United States alone. 122 millions tons (111 million tonnes) of plastic waste will have nowhere to go by 2030 due to Chinese import ban.

Solution:

Edible cutlery made of flour, and rice and wheat.


In 2005, Narayaana Peespaty, an agricultural scientist specialising in groundwater research, was on a field visit to Mahabubnagar, a drought-prone district in Telangana, India. Peesapaty had ordered a jowar roti millet bread for lunch. He arrived late. The roti had become cold and hard. Forced to break the roti and scoop the dal and curry with its pieces, crunching into them, Peeseapaty realised if a two-dimensional spatula can work, then why not a three-dimensional spoon?

Plastics should not be used for handling food, since they contain chemicals with toxic properties that leach into what we eat. Peesapaty founded a company called Bakeys to produce edible cutlery, made primarily from jowar, a millet flour, and rice and wheat flour in three flavours – savoury, sweet and plain. Tasting like crackers, even if they are not eaten, they are safe to dispose into the environment, as they are biodegradable.

The company has expanded to smaller spoons for soups and desserts as well as small bowls and pots. By 2011, Bakeys had manufactured over 1.5 million edible spoons made from rice, wheat, and millet in eight different flavours: sugar, ginger-cinnamon, ginger-garlic, celery, black pepper, cumin, mint-ginger, and carrot-beetroot.

Several materials such as wheat bran, rice bran, sorghum, corn, etc. are being used for manufacturing of edible cutlery and edible tableware. It is baked at high temperature and is non-polluting from production to disposal. Over 10,000 edible knives, spoons and forks are made per day by a growing number of companies.

For example, Mede Cutlery Company in Zhejiang, China manufactures edible cutlery in attractive colors with new flavours of purple potato, sesame, and corn. Biotrem’s wheat bran tableware production process was invented by Jerzy Wysocki in Poland After only two years commercialising it, Biotrem already produces 15 million pieces a year and they are currently under expansion.

Since 2017, Eclery Foods in Hyderabad, Telangana, India has a fully automated process enabling a capacity of 200,000 spoons per day, which expected to double by November 2018.

In France, former student at the AgroParisTech, Nicolas Richardot, has started up Tassiopée in Normandy, France to manufacture an edible coffee cup, made of biscuit with an inside chocolate coating. As an alternative to plastic cups, once the coffee has been drunk, the cup can be eaten.

In Auckland, New Zealand, the burger chain Better Burger teamed up with Innocent Packaging to create plant-based and compostable packaging for their burgers. The wafer paper packaging made from potato starch and water encouraged their customers to eat everything on their plate, rubbish included. The wrappers are made of potato starch with a taste reported to be similar to a “potato version of a prawn cracker”.

On International Earth Day (April 22, 2018), 500 burgers sold at the chain’s Mount Eden restaurant were wrapped in the material. They even went the distance and used edible ink to brand the packaging, adding their logo and a fun design. Although pitched as a one off activity to raise awareness for the challenges of the environment, since October 2017, Better Burger have saved more than 366,000 plastic items from going to the landfill from its outlets.

What you can do: Stop throwing away single-use cutlery and crockery, try out an edible version.

Tomorrow’s solution: Edible packaging

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