Sustainability

Come With Me on a Plastic Carpet Ride!
December 26, 2012 11:45 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Cities are often littered with trash and plastics on every street corner. The haphazard candy wrapper, bottle or plastic bag blowing in the wind creates eyesores for locals and tourists alike. But what is the litter situation in the desert? You won't find too much garbage where there aren't any people, that is unless it's a piece of plastic artwork. Dutch collective, WE MAKE CARPETS, was recently commissioned by the Taragalte Festival in southern Morocco to turn ordinary plastics into a magic carpet piece of artwork.

Sweet Potatoes Unexpected Reaction to Rising CO2 Levels
December 26, 2012 08:56 AM - Zoraida Portillo, SciDevNet

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere caused by human-driven emissions might lead to larger sweet potatoes, a staple food for many African and Asian countries, research reveals. Sweet potatoes could double in size with the increase in CO2 levels currently forecasted for the end of this century, according to research by a team from the University of Hawaii, United States. The team presented their finding at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, in San Francisco this month (3-7 December).

Christmas Trees Absorb Greenhouse Gasses
December 25, 2012 08:04 AM - Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Your Christmas tree and its brethren are absorbing methane, a super greenhouse gas that they were previously suspected of emitting. In fact, previous studies put the global methane output by plants at between 62 and 236 teragrams each year. That's not small potatoes (if you will pardon the vegetable pun), but 10 to 30 percent of all methane entering the atmosphere. I refer to methane as a "super" greenhouse gas because it does what carbon dioxide does, but packs about 25 times the punch, which is bad. However, methane does not last very as long in Earth's atmosphere, which is good. Then again, one of the things methane degrades into is carbon dioxide. Bad again. Ugh.

Decal-like Sticker Will Make Solar Panels More Applicable
December 24, 2012 10:07 AM - Editor, ENN

Solar panels have been popping up on everything from rooftops to parking garages and even Christmas lights. However, these stiff and rigid heavy panels often limit their applications. Fortunately, researchers at Stanford University have developed flexible, decal-like solar panels that can be peeled off like stickers and stuck to virtually any surface, from papers to window panes.

Which State Leads the the Solar Power Race?
December 20, 2012 11:09 AM - Guest author, Jeana Brookes, Clean Techies

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in the second quarter of 2012, California again led the nation in installed solar capacity, with a total of 217 MW. The state is expected to lead the nation in the solar race again in 2013. According to new research from the California-based NPD Solarbuzz, California is projected to keep its position at number one in 2013, much thanks to its combination of policy initiatives and citizen motivation.

Prairie Resurgence in the Midwest
December 20, 2012 09:32 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

Suburban sprawl meant the introduction of lawn monoculture: perfectly cut, well-manicured lawns that became a part of pride for many American homeowners. However, in the Midwest, a new lawn resurgence is occurring: restoring yards to the native prairies that existed in pre-settlement days. In an effort to manage yards and fallow farmland succumbing to invasive shrubs, more and more people are spending the time and resources to turn their property into the native ecosystem that once ruled the land. This practice is not only attracting more wildlife to areas, but it is changing the way people maintain their yards, as prairies require less watering and fertilizer, and no mowing!

How Can the Performance of Batteries in Electric Cars be Improved?
December 18, 2012 06:10 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

I have been driving a Chevy VOLT for a year and a half. I have more than 26,000 miles on it, and have used 100 gallons of gasoline. That works out to more than 250 mpg. Of course, I have been charging the VOLT at home every night, and at the office during the day but my electric bills at both places are not noticeably higher. It would be nice if the electric range were a bit longer, but the gasoline engine on board that charges the batteries guarantees that I can keep driving as long as I need to. What are the limiting factors to increasing the range of the lithium ion batteries? Researchers led by Ohio State University engineers examined used car batteries and discovered that over time lithium accumulates beyond the battery electrodes — in the "current collector," a sheet of copper which facilitates electron transfer between the electrodes and the car's electrical system. This knowledge could aid in improving design and performance of batteries, explained Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and the Howard D. Winbigler Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "Our study shows that the copper current collector plays a role in the performance of the battery," he said.

Vancouver Uses "Warm Mix" Paving Process, Uses Recycled Plastic in Asphalt
December 17, 2012 09:32 AM - Gina-Marie Cheeseman, Triple Pundit

The Canadian city of Vancouver is using innovative materials to pave its new roads: asphalt made up of wax from recycled plastic. The city is calling the asphalt mix a "warm mix" paving process, according to Fast Coexist. Using a warm mix, as Fast Coexist explains, allows asphalt to be "produced and transported at lower temperatures." Using lower temperatures means that 20 percent less gas is used to heat the warm mix asphalt. Produced by GreenMantra Technologies, a Toronto-based company, the warm mix asphalt is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic waste.

Some Amazon Tree Species Found to Have Existed for Millions of Years
December 15, 2012 07:04 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Some Amazon rainforest tree species are more than eight million years old found a genetic study published in the December 2012 edition of Ecology and Evolution. Christopher Dick of the University of Michigan and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, Mark Maslin of University College London, and Eldredge Bermingham of STRI analyzed the age of 12 widely distributed Amazon tree species. They found that nine of the species emerged prior to the Pliocene Epoch some 2.6 million years ago, seven dated to the Miocene Epoch (5.6 million years ago), and three were more than eight million years old.

The Incredible Elephants of the Sahara
December 14, 2012 09:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

African elephants are known for hanging around rivers and mashes in the savanna and the edge of jungles. However, their range actually extends well into the north, all the way up to the Sahara desert. In Mali’s Gourma region, around the city of Timbuktu, there exists a species of desert-adapted African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). Every year, they undertake an amazing migration across an area of 32,000 square kilometers (over 12,000 square miles) in search of food and water. This annual journey was recently recorded by researchers from the group Save the Elephants, University of British Columbia, and Oxford University, who attached GPS collars to nine of the elephants and tracking them by satellite. Their report documents the elephants’ record-breaking trek to survive in the largest and harshest elephant range in the world.

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