Bricks from Sahara Sand
April 12, 2013 06:06 AM - Julia Harte, GreenProphet
Although the Sahara desert used to be a green retreat for giraffes and hippos 5,000 years ago, it is now a giant, sometimes rolling landscape of sand. A lot of sand. In fact, roughly two thirds of Algeria is made up of sand, according to the authors of a study published in the Arabian Journal for Science and Engineering. And they believe it can be used to produce a sustainable building material for a limping construction industry. That's right, they want to turn the dunes into bricks, and they already have a pretty good formula. Since Algeria possesses very little in the way of aggregate materials that can be used in the construction industry, researchers from the University of Kasdi Merbah and the Polytechnic School of Algiers developed a new kind of brick made with little more than water, sand sourced from their own backyard — so to speak — and a binder.
Global Forest Watch 2.0 will help monitor our forests
April 10, 2013 06:36 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM
World Resources Institute (WRI) today unveiled a long-awaited tool that could revolutionize global forest monitoring, reports the UN Forum on Forests, which is meeting this week in Istanbul, Turkey. Global Forest Watch 2.0 is a platform that combines near-real time satellite data, forestry data, and user-submitted information to provide the most complete picture of the world's forests ever assembled. The system has been developed over the last several years as a collaborative effort between WRI and other partners, including Google, the University of Maryland and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
New Materials Promise to Dramatically Drop Photovoltaic Prices
April 9, 2013 08:41 AM - Cyrus Patten, Global Warming is Real
What is the single most significant barrier to widespread use of alternative energy? Is it the right wing climate change skeptics? No. It's economics. If there is not money to be made at the same scale as in the fossil fuel industry, and if renewable, clean energy does not become cheaper than fossil fuels, alternative energy doesn't stand a chance in the free market.
Yum! Brands announces 'greener' paper policy
April 8, 2013 08:51 AM - Editor, MONGABAY.COM
KCF, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell policy excludes fiber from conversion of old-growth rainforests to plantations. After a prolonged campaign by environmental activists, the world's largest fast food company has announced a new sourcing policy that will shift it toward greener packaging materials.
EU to require efficiency increases for boilers
April 8, 2013 06:22 AM - Editor, EurActiv
A below-the-radar vote in an obscure EU committee to set new efficiency standards for central heating boilers has sealed energy savings that could equal 10% of Europe's energy consumption by 2020, green groups say. After more than five years of haggling, the Ecodesign directive's regulatory committee in March voted through a text setting minimum green requirements for boilers and water heaters, which also forces them to be labelled for their energy savings potential. Stéphane Arditi, a senior policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), told EurActiv that the ensuing emissions reductions would be "massive".
Real Time Forest Monitoring System Uses New Tech to Fight Deforestation
April 5, 2013 08:08 AM - Editor, Justmeans
Global Forest Watch 2.0 (GFW 2.0) is a powerful near real-time forest monitoring system launching this spring that combines satellite technology, new algorithms, cloud computing, mobile phone technologies, maps and human networks around the world to fight illegal logging and deforestation. GFW 2.0 is a major breakthrough, as it will create fast, online alerts that show when deforestation is taking place, particularly in remote locations. Currently, by the time satellite images of deforestation are viewed, the criminals are often far away as it takes around three to five years to produce a national forest cover map.
'Waterpod' Turns Desert Well-Water Clean
April 4, 2013 10:51 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
Ever since the construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Draa Valley nearly 40 years ago, Sahara nomads have faced further desertification of the region, taking a heavy toll on water supplies. More than 330 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or around 40 percent of the population, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to a report published by British NGO WaterAid. While there are wells throughout the region, they often contain undrinkable brackish water that is inundated with salt.
Manufacturing Getting More and More Energy Efficient!
April 4, 2013 05:54 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
The amount of energy we use to manufacture the products we use every day is a significant part of the energy needed to support out lifestyle. As the planet gets more and more populated, can we continue to make manufacturing more efficient, or are thee limits to this? A new report by researchers at MIT and elsewhere finds that the global manufacturing sector has made great strides in energy efficiency: The manufacturing of materials such as steel, cement, paper and aluminum has become increasingly streamlined, requiring far less energy than when these processes were first invented. However, despite more energy-efficient manufacturing, the researchers found that such processes may be approaching their thermodynamic limits: There are increasingly limited options available to make them significantly more efficient. The result, the team observed, is that energy efficiency for many important processes in manufacturing is approaching a plateau.
April 3, 2013 06:02 AM - WIldlife Conservation Society
A new paper says a discussion on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology to conservation is necessary. The potential exists to re-creating extinct species and to create genetically modified super-species. An upcoming conference at Clare College in Cambridge, England, will examine the nexus of synthetic biology and conservation What effects will the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology have on the conservation of nature? The ecological and ethical challenges stemming from this question will require a new and continuing dialogue between members of the synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation communities, according to authors of a new paper. According to the paper, the field of synthetic biology—a discipline that utilizes chemically synthesized DNA to create organisms that address human needs—is developing rapidly, with billions of dollars being invested annually. Many extol the virtues of synthetic biology as providing potential solutions to human health problems, food security, and energy needs. Advocates also see in synthetic biology tools for combating climate change and water deficits. Critics warn that genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to native species and natural ecosystems.
Ontario Almost Totally off Coal Generation
April 2, 2013 02:15 PM - Keith Schneider, Yale Environment360
Ontario is on the verge of becoming the first industrial region in North America to eliminate all coal-fired electrical generation. Here’s how Canada's most populous province did it — and what the U.S. and others can learn from it. By most measures of environmental policy and progress, Ontario, Canada ranks well. Over the last half-century, Canada’s most populous province required cities and industries to treat every gallon of wastewater, dramatically reduced the level of sulfur and other pollutants that caused acid rain, and convinced the big and politically powerful pulp and paper industry to install state-of-the-art emissions control equipment.