Picture your grocery store’s produce section. If you shop in a supermarket, there are probably rows and rows of colorful fruits and vegetables, all ripe, shiny, and perfect. Unfortunately, in order to keep shelves fully-stocked, grocery stores often wind up with a surplus of produce, and once fruits and veggies start looking not-so-perfect, most stores simply send them to landfill. But grocery store Lidl is trying to change that with its new Too Good to Waste boxes, which sell damaged produce in boxes at a major discount.

As reported by the Huffington Post, the international grocery store chain now has Too Good to Waste going at each of its stores in England, Scotland, and Wales. A few other supermarkets have similar programs, but what sets Lidl’s apart is that the boxes are prepared by a team of on-site “Freshness Specialists”, who analyze produce shelves for items that are slightly damaged or a little less fresh, as per the grocery chain’s website. The team gathers these fruits and vegetables, packs them in cardboard boxes, and sells each box for £1.50, which translates to $1.98 USD.

Each box weighs around 5 kilograms (about 11 pounds), and as seen in a photo of a few of the boxes, they are filled with things like lettuce, cucumbers, eggplants, apples, and tomatoes. Just one of those items could easily cost $2 on its own, so as long as you’re prepared to get cooking, the box is a fantastic deal.

Boxes are put out every morning before the store opens, and around midday, employees take the boxes off shelves and donate them to Feed it Back. Feed it Back is a food distribution program that Lidl founded along with Neighborly (a company that helps corporations connect with their communities), and the program facilitates Lidl donating extra produce from stores in England, Scotland, and Wales to food charities in their communities.

Christian Härtnagel, CEO of Lidl Great Britain, noted that Too Good to Waste first launched as a trial, but due to the great response, it’s becoming permanent. “The positive feedback that we have received off the back of our trial has been incredible; from our colleagues who are showing so much passion for them, to our customers who were getting in touch from the get go asking where they could get one,” Härtnagel said, according to Bristol Live. “The really brilliant thing about this initiative is that, not only is it helping to tackle the highly important challenge of food waste, it’s also helping our customers make even more savings,” the CEO added, as per the Huffington Post.

Lidl published a report on its food surplus data on its website, and the research found that 46 percent of Lidl’s waste (measured by the ton) was fresh fruits and veggies. That’s a pretty huge percentage, but not really surprising, considering the short shelf life of most fresh produce. Additionally, in 2017, Lidl pledged to cut food waste by 25 percent in each store store by 2020. Hopefully Too Good to Waste will help Lidl achieve that goal — and maybe the store will eventually expand the program to locations worldwide.

Grocery Store Lidl Is Saving Produce From Landfill With “Too Good to Waste” Discount Veggie Boxes [Green Matters]

Regardless of where in the world you live, chances are, litter is a huge problem. More than 9 billion tons of litter ends up in the ocean every year, and the garbage that ends up outside of the landfill often interferes with the natural ecosystem and wildlife.

People are now encouraging others to fight back against litter with the #TrashTag challenge — the latest viral “challenge,” only this one is doing good for the planet by motivating other people to grab supplies (like gloves and a garbage bag) and pick up the litter in their community.

The hashtag — and the action that goes along with it — has been around since at least 2015, when UCO, a Canadian brand of outdoor essentials, announced the challenge and their goal of picking up 10,000 pieces of trash in the year that followed the challenge’s introduction. According to a press releasepublished at that time, the challenge was conceived by UCO’s People Ambassador Steven Reinhold after he accidentally let a receipt fly out the window and he was feeling particularly guilty. Prompted by his accident, he committed to picking up 100 pieces of trash to make up for his accidental littering, and was hopeful that he could get others to do the same.

The trend seems to have had a resurgence, thanks to enthusiastic Redditors who have been sharing the results of their own cleanup projects, using the hashtag #TrashTag. The movement first surged in popularity thanks to a post on /r/wholesomemes; people then posted their own stories of cleaning up the planet to /r/pics, which lead to the birth of a new subreddit to share trash cleanups, /r/trashtag, and renewed attention on another,  /r/detrashed.

As a result of the incredible response the movement has received, people are sharing impressive before-and-after shots of the areas in their community that they chose to clean up.

As many people pointed out, this new trend is in line with doing a “Teddy,” a movement inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do what you have, with what you have, where you are.” The movement — created by The Theodores, a grassroots organization — simply encourages people to do exactly what the famous quote preaches by having them clean up the litter in their area (aka “doing a Teddy”) and tracking their contribution on their website.

According to their website, people “doing Teddys” in 19 different countries have picked up  more than 12,827 lbs of trash to date.

All these actions truly go to show what a difference can be made if we all just do our part.

People Are Cleaning Up Garbage, and Encouraging Others to Do the Same With a Game of #TrashTag [Green Matters]

Soap is kind of scary. At least, traditional soap. First of all, soap that comes in a plastic container (with a plastic pump) is not sustainable. Often, that plastic ends up in landfills; if it is recycled, plastic can only be recycled a finite amount of times whereas more sustainable materials (like glass for instance) can be infinitely recycled.

But a lack of compostability and biodegradability aren’t the only components of soap that have many zero wasters avoiding them in grocery stores. Many hand soaps — even if they’re marketed as “organic” or “safe” or “allergen-free” — contain some nasty stuff. Things like additives, parabens, and synthetic fragrances, colors, and more. You might be wondering: And, that’s a bad thing, why? Well, all that synthetic stuff is linked to some dangerous health concerns.

Why Traditional Soap Is “Toxic”

Take parabens for example. They’re one of the most common toxic beauty ingredients because they prevent the growth of mold, yeast, and bacteria in products. Great, right? But parabens also have properties that mimic estrogen and therefore have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

Another common toxic beauty ingredient found in soaps is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). It’s found in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products. Why? Because it’s responsible for that foaming agent that happens in soap (and many other products like body wash, cleansers, mascara, and acne treatments) when you press the pump. Foaming bubbles are great—they make it easier to wash your hands and for shampoo and conditioner to lather up; but SLS’s are connected with irritation of the skin, lungs, and eyes. When it combines with other chemicals, the mixture can form nitrosamines, a known carcinogen. Aside from causing cancer, this combo can also lead to kidney and respiratory damage.

Many soaps also contain triclosan — an antimicrobial chemical that is known to disrupt the endocrine system, including thyroid and reproductive hormones. It’s also a known skin irritant. Studies have shown that triclosan can make bacteria antibiotic-resistant, which poses a great risk to our future health. Triclosan is also commonly found in deodorant and toothpaste.

What You Need to Know About Soap Bases

Now that you’ve read about all the icky things hiding in antibacterial soap, you might want to take matters into your own hands (literally) and make your own at home.

Many soap recipes call for the use of a caustic agent called lye. It creates the effect of saponification once it interacts with oils, making it the soap base. While lye is a natural ingredient, it doesn’t exactly qualify as “non-toxic.” In high doses, lye is corrosive and can cause damage to the skin, such as irritation and burns. For this reason, the recipe below instead provides alternative soap bases.

There are several kinds of alternative soap bases: glycerin, shea butter, Aloe Vera, cocoa butter, and olive oil melt and pour soap base. Because these recipes exclude lye, the type of soap-making method we are using is “melt and pour.”

Directions for Making Melt and Pour Hand Soap

To make your own bar soap at home, you’ll need to use one of the soap bases mentioned above, as well as a Pyrex bowl (for melting the soap), silicone mold or loaf pan lined with parchment paper, and herbs or essential oils of your choice.

Measure one pound of the soap base of your choice. After chopping the block of soap base into chunks, throw it in your Pyrex bowl and microwave until melted. Add 30 drops of the essential oil of your choice and/or a half teaspoon of herbs per soap base. Mix and then pour into silicone mold or loaf pan. Let the soap cool for several hours; once it’s congealed, it’s ready to use!

Hospital-acquired infections are a serious problem, and the most common type of such infections occurs when catheters are inserted into blood vessels. A new coating, however, shows promise for killing bacteria at insertion sites, keeping them from establishing biofilm colonies on the catheters.

Developed at Rhode Island’s Brown University, the coating was created by first dissolving polyurethane and concentrations of an antibacterial drug known as auranofin, then mixing them into a solvent solution. The resulting liquid was subsequently applied to a catheter, after which the solvent was evaporated away. This left a durable polymer coating behind, which can stretch by up to 500 percent without breaking.

In lab tests, catheters treated with the coating were placed in solutions and on glass plates, in which harmful methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria was present. For up to 26 days, the coating gradually released auranofin, inhibiting MRSA growth on the catheter – this kept the bacteria from forming difficult-to-remove biofilms.

By contrast, when a traditional antibiotic was tested under the same conditions, it was unable to keep biofilms from forming. What’s more, because auranofin isn’t an antibiotic, there’s no risk of its use leading to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Tests additionally indicate that the coating has no adverse effects on human blood or liver cells, although further research will be required before human trials can begin.

“Biofilms have really effective ways of evading antibiotics, which makes them thousands of times more difficult to treat in terms of the concentration of drug needed compared to planktonic [free-floating] bacteria,” says Asst. Prof. Anita Shukla, corresponding author of a paper on the research. “The fact that these coatings are able to prevent biofilms from forming in the first place is really important.”

The paper was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. Brown’s Eleftherios Mylonakis and Beth Fuchs also took part in the study.

Scientists at other institutes have previously explored the use of UV-emitting fibers, bioactive glass and iron oxide nanoparticles for keeping catheters biofilm-free.

Polymer catheter coating kills infection-causing bacteria [New Atlas]

Our cities need to become part of our agricultural system. In recent decades it has become increasingly clear that the way we live and eat is a big threat to our health and the health of our ecosystem. Climate change is forcing us to rethink our way of life and to reconnect agriculture back into our urban fabric.

We need architects to reconnect the city with nature, creating buildings that appeal to all of our senses. Bringing the production of food back to our daily lives will not only democratise the food system, but also allow our cities to achieve food security.

There is a close relation between the beginning of agriculture and the birth of architecture. Our cities were shaped by food.

This is because, as the agricultural revolution ended our presence as hunters and gatherers, grain was a stable food source that allowed us to permanently settle. Farming and living were interconnected – they needed to be in close proximity due to a lack of efficient transportation and refrigeration. So all ancient settlements were dense areas with food distribution compounds at their centre and farmland in their surrounding.

Our cities were shaped by food

A close connection between food and our urban lives is still traceable on the maps of our cities and their street names. Near the River Thames in London you can find Cornhill and Fish Street, because grain and fish came on and from the river, while northern parts of London are named after meat and its production, because animals walked into the city before being slaughtered.

The invention of the railway, pasteurisation and refrigeration changed the delivery system of our food. The production and the consumption no longer depended on close proximity. All of a sudden it was possible to overcome long distances in a short amount of time and the food could be kept fresh for a longer. That made it possible to grow food far away from sight and mind. We became distant to it. We no longer witnessed the slaughtering of pigs or the dirt of the harvest, and merely became consumers of the end product.

With this disconnection to the origin of our food, we lost an understanding of its importance.

Over the years, industrialisation has made farming incredibly efficient when it comes to the amount and profitability of food we produce. But it has made us all dependent on a system that only a handful of multinational cooperations can deliver.

Meanwhile our growing disconnection to food has transformed our urban areas. No longer constrained by farmland, cities have grown indefinitely. They have swallowed up agricultural land and covered the last connection people had with the soil that once fed them. And with the advent of high-rise living, we are more distant than ever to the natural environment.

The problem we are now facing is that food is eating our natural resources. Agriculture occupies more than a third of land on our planet and crop production has led to the deforestation of 40 per cent of our woodland. It uses 70 per cent of our freshwater reserves and emits almost one third of all greenhouse gases.

The way we produce, consume and waste food is a massive threat to our health

The way we grow our food is also a big threat to biodiversity, because we mainly grow crops to fatten domesticated animals. And it is about to get worse.

As urban populations grow and more developing countries adopt the western diet, the footprint of our food will increase dramatically. It is estimated that in the next 50 years, more food will be consumed than in the last 10,000 years combined.

The way we produce, consume and waste food is also a massive threat to our health. Issues like obesity, diabetes, and malnutrition are a direct outcome of our unwholesome diet.

The construction industry is equally harmful. We produce 39 per cent of global CO2and account for more than a third of the world’s energy use. The building industry is the biggest polluting sector of our globe and we as architects are a part of that.

It will come as no surprise to hear that the international style is shaping our cities faster than any other. In disregard of location and a local climate, our cities are filling up with concrete frames and curtain walls. So, just like in agriculture, we are killing off thousands of years of place-defining culture.

The richness of a culture has a lot to do with its food and its buildings. We are on the brink of losing both.

Within this system that capitalises everything for economic growth, nature has lost its value. We all know the devastating impact we have on our planet. But the problem didn’t surround us for a long time, because we pushed it outside of our cities and outside of our minds. At last we’re finally realising the devastating effect it is having on our physical and mental health.

Today around 90 per cent of the world’s population breathes polluted air. This results in around seven million premature deaths per year – almost equal to the size of my country, Austria.

We need to stop spending billions on grey infrastructure

The health of our planet is vital for the survival of our species. We still share the DNA with our hunter and gatherer ancestors, and our brains are wired so that we need fresh air, sunshine, green grass and clean water. We need to stop spending billions on grey infrastructure, and instead spend money on green projects that can reconnect us with nature.

The current state of agriculture and architecture paints a dark picture. But there is hope.

People around the world are asking for healthier alternatives to their current diet. Governments are supporting farmers markets, seed education classes and urban gardening, with the prospect of food security for their cities. The market is starting to agree as well; as organic food sections in supermarkets grow, sales of frozen food and microwaves plummet.

This creates an opportunity for buildings that have food as their foundation.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of all food will be consumed in urban areas by 2050. Combine that with the proposition that a healthy diet demands food that is grown nearby the consumer, and the answer is clear: our cities must become part of our agricultural system.

Some people are taking action into their own hands. From personal gardens on balconies and communal greenhouses, to edible facades and vertical farms.

As a grassroots movement, this makes economic and ecological sense. With a smaller distance to be delivered, vegetables would be less likely to spoil. And as supply chains shorten, the need for packaging, gas for delivery and energy for refrigeration reduces as well.

Vertical farming can produce a higher ratio of crops per planted area

Vertical farming take this idea even further. These systems can produce a higher ratio of crops per planted area. Plus the indoor climate of greenhouses protects the food against varying weather conditions and offers the possibility to monitor each plant.

Another premise of vertical farming is that it runs on the loop of byproducts. Buildings create a large amount of energy and heat, which can help plants like potatoes, nuts and beans to grow. Food waste can be locally collected, turned into compost to and be used to grow more food. Meanwhile, vertical gardens can act as climate buffers between buildings and their surroundings, helping to naturally ventilate the spaces within.

As a young architect, I am part of a generation that is not concerned with styles, forms or academic theories. I believe our mission is more urgent than that. The important tasks of our time – reversing climate change, increasing natural habitat, creating a healthy food system – are now part of the architectural profession. The solution to theses problems will involve a balance between technology and empathy.

We need ecological buildings that connect with our senses. Buildings made with haptic materials that you want to touch and look at. Buildings you can listen to, because they include homes for birds and bees. Buildings with the scent of vegetables and herbs. And buildings that you can partly eat, because they support food production.

I am fully aware that buildings like The Farmhouse, our new proposal, can not solve the problem of feeding two billions mouths by 2050. This change needs to come from climate-appropriate agriculture, clean meat and a boost for local, organic farmers.

But I believe that it does something else important: it creates a visible and mental connection to food. It puts agriculture back into our cities and into our minds. It creates a different typology of a tower that not only consumes from its surroundings, but also gives back to its environment. A tower that is not an isolated island in the city, but an integral component of a healthier and tastier city.

“We need agriculture back in our cities and in our minds” [Dezeen]

 

MVRDV has broken ground on the Tainan Xinhua Fruit and Vegetable Market in Taiwan, which will be topped by a terraced green roof for farming.

The giant wholesale and auction market, under construction in the foothills of east Tainan, was commissioned by Tainan City Government Agriculture Bureau to create a food supply hub for the district.

MVRDV worked with local studio LLJ Architects to design the structure, which will be topped by an undulating green roof intended to echo the surrounding landscape. This will serve as a viewing deck, but will also be used for growing crops.

MVRDV plans to elevate the rooftop farm high above the market to allow sufficient natural ventilation, but it will extend down at the east corner to provide a ground-level access point.

The rooftop will be divided into a series of stepped terraces, each tailored to grow a different crop. Seating areas will also be incorporated for visitors to relax and enjoy the view.

“Tainan, in my opinion, is one of those towns which is so beautiful to me because of its nature, agriculture fields, farms, sea, and mountains. Tainan Market can become a building that symbolises this beauty,” said Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV.

“It is completely functional and caters to the needs for auctioning, selling and buying goods, but its terraced roof, with its collection of growing products, will allow visitors to take in the landscape while escaping from bustle below.”

When complete, Tainan Xinhua Fruit and Vegetable Market will sit close to a number of public transport links, ensuring it is accessible for traders, buyers and visitors from both the city and the surrounding farmland.

It will measure 80,000 square metres and house 180 market and auction plots, all sheltered by the farmable green roof.

MVRDV’s visuals also show a four-storey structure projecting up through the structure, providing a second access point to the rooftop.

The structure will comprise offices and a restaurant, alongside an exhibition centre that MVRDV hopes will be used to display agricultural products from across the region for educational purposes.

Expected to complete in late 2020, Tainan Xinhua Fruit and Vegetable Market taps into the growing trend for architecture that incorporates farming. Architect Chris Precht is among those championing the idea and recently unveiled his own concept for towers that incorporate vertical gardens.

MVRDV is also working on another project in Taiwan. The Tainan Axis is an artificial beach and lagoon set to replace a flooded shopping centre.

Undulating rooftop farm terraces will top food market designed by MVRDV for Taiwan [Dezeen]

Although killing mosquitos is certainly one way of keeping them from spreading malaria, the pests can unfortunately develop a resistance to insecticides. Scientists from Harvard University are therefore looking at another approach, in which live mosquitos are made malaria-free simply by landing on a treated surface.

Atovaquone is a chemical that’s already used in medications to treat and prevent malaria in humans. In lab-based experiments, Harvard researchers coated glass surfaces with that chemical, covered the glass with an inverted plastic cup, and then placed female Anopheles mosquitos inside of that cup. Immediately before or after sticking the insects in there, the scientists infected them with Plasmodium falciparum, which is the parasite that causes malaria.

Over the course of the study, the mosquitos were trapped in the cup for different amounts of time, and the glass was coated with differing concentrations of atovaquone. Inevitably, the insects ended up landing on the glass, absorbing the chemical through their legs. Ultimately, it was found that when they stood on relatively low concentrations of atovaquone for just six minutes, it was sufficient to eliminate all of the parasites within their bodies.

The insects typically light on mosquito netting around beds for at least six minutes at a time, so it is now hoped that by treating such nets with the chemical (or others similar to it), mosquito populations in given areas could gradually be made malaria-free.

It should also be noted that the atovaquone exposure did not alter the insects’ lifespans or ability to reproduce. This could actually be welcome news to many people, who worry that simply killing off large numbers of mosquitos may adversely affect the ecological food chain.

“Mosquitoes are amazingly resilient organisms that have developed resistance against every insecticide that has been used to kill them. By eliminating malaria parasites within the mosquito rather than killing the mosquito itself, we can circumvent this resistance and effectively prevent malaria transmission,” says Prof. Flaminia Catteruccia. “Ultimately, the use of antimalarials on mosquito nets could help eliminate this devastating disease. It’s a simple but innovative idea that’s safe for people who use mosquito nets and friendly to the environment.”

Might medicated nets eliminate malaria in mosquitos? [New Atlas]

A variety of smart gadgets are being explored as part of the scheme. One is a wristband that will make it easy to monitor the location of prisoners at all times. It will also keep tabs on heart rates and alert staff if one becomes irregular. In the event that prisoners try to remove the wristband, it will trigger an alarm.

Another surveillance tool being put through its paces is an A.I.-augmented video surveillance system, designed to detect certain behavior behind bars. For instance, it can supposedly recognize self-harming behaviors, fighting, and whether a person has collapsed. Twelve of these security cameras are currently being tested in male dormitories at Pik Uk Prison in Hong Kong.

Perhaps the most attention-grabbing piece of technology being explored (and one that takes away a job that few humans would want) is a robot whose purpose is to look for drugs in poop. It turns out that many prisoners try to smuggle drugs into prison by swallowing them and then pooping them out later. At present, human prison officers get the glamorous job of examining inmates feces using wooden sticks to break it up in their search for contraband. Instead, the robot arm will use jets of water to break down the poop, looking for illicit drugs.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Commissioner of Correctional Services Danny Woo Ying-ming said that: “The Correctional Services Department strives to enhance efficiency of custodial operations and security of correctional institutions through the application of innovation and technology, while protecting the safety of officers and persons in custody.”

This isn’t the only smart prison technology we’ve covered. In the U.S., some prisons have invested in a smart drone detection system, designed to crack down on contraband by monitoring suspicious drone traffic in the area. As far as we know, however, U.S. prisons have yet to dive into the world of poop-testing robots or smart wearables for its prison population.

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare [Digital Trends]

Plastic is something of a modern curse. It’s diversity and usefulness has led to a global waste problem that’s choking our oceans, land and air. While some plastics can be recycled relatively easily, others like bubble wrap and stretchy pallet wrap may not be accepted by municipalities. Gomi design studio out of Brighton, UK, is looking to do something about that, and has created a portable wireless speaker that’s made using recycled flexible plastics.

“We were inspired by the cradle-to-cradle design process, thinking about our products full-lifecycle right from the beginning of our design process,” said Gomi’s Tom Meades. “With our Bluetooth speakers, we want to intercept a waste stream that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated. Flexible plastics/LDPE is widely regarded as non-recyclable by UK councils, and so we thought this would be the perfect material to harness and show that through innovative design this can be valuable, and does not have to end up as waste polluting our environment. Instead, we can craft this material into desirable objects.”

The three modules that make up each speaker are made from the equivalent of about 100 plastic bags, which are melted, compressed and molded into speaker housings. The fabrication process also involves creating marble-like patterns by hand – which means that each speaker can be made to look unique.

The design studio has partnered with local wholesalers in Sussex to source the necessary plastic waste, which might otherwise go to landfill or be incinerated. Gomi is also accepting household plastic waste, and is currently looking at other ways to intercept non-recyclable flexible plastic waste.

As for the internals, each 138 x 270 x 80 mm (5.4 x 10.6 x 3.1 in) speaker is home to one dome tweeter and one midrange driver, and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless streaming. Listeners can look forward to 18 hours of playback per charge of its internal battery.

Gomi is also making a portable power brick encased in the same material, which features a 20,000 mAh Li-ion battery and USB-C, standard USB and fast charging USB 3.0 ports for cabling up to device charging ports.

To fund production, the design studio has launched on Kickstarter. Pledges for a Gomi speaker start at £195 (about US$260) and, if all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in November. The Gomi charger/power bank is pitched at £39, and also has an estimated shipping date of November, 2019. The video below has more.

Non-recyclable plastic waste recycled into portable speakers [New Atlas]

If you recently finished your favorite mascara, and you don’t know what to do with the container — and you’re determined to keep it out of the landfill — Appalachian Wildlife Refuge has the answer for you: They want your used mascara wands for the animals in their care. And no, before you ask, they aren’t looking to achieve longer, darker, or more voluminous lashes for the animals in need. But mascara wands do make for an ideal grooming situation.

For the past two years, the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge has collected used mascara wands as part of their Wands for Wildlife program, which began after they realized that the fine-toothed bristles made mascara wands the perfect tool for caring for the animals in their care.

As Appalachian Wildlife Refuge cofounder Kimberly Brewster explained to Green Matters, the wands are used in various ways with the animals, such as removing fly eggs and larva from feathers and fur of wild animals; grooming an area on an animal to remove dust, dirt, sand, sawdust, etc.; assisting the wildlife rehabilitator in examining for injuries; and cleaning the syringes used for feeding the animals.

Brewster added that “because the bristles are soft and so close together, they reduce the risk of potential injury to the tiny patients — especially squirmy babies.”

On March 10, 2017, Brewster’s fellow cofounder Savannah Trantham posted a call of action on Facebook, explaining the need for used mascara wands — and the response to the viral post was so astounding that today, Wands for Wildlife receives so many donations that they’re able to donate to other wildlife rehabs and facilities, furthering the impact of the donations beyond Appalachian Wildlife Refuge.

Actually donating the wands is easy as could be; once your product is ready to be donated, Wands for Wildlife advises you to clean them in warm, soapy water to remove any product and residue from the wands. Along with the form on their website, you can ship the wands to Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, who will either use it in their own facility or donate it to other organizations who work with animals in need.

In order to truly minimize your impact when it comes to getting rid of your mascara — and keeping your empties out of the landfill — you can also recycle your would-be-hard-to-recycle mascara tube with TerraCycle’s Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Program.

If you don’t wear mascara, there are still countless other ways to help the cause; Appalachian Wildlife Refuge currently has a wishlist of items that would assist them in helping the animals, and — of course — monetary donations are always appreciated as well.

In an email to Green Matters, Brewster explained how moved she’s been by the incredible response their initiative has received.

She wrote, “The response to a simple request for mascara wands has been astounding. I honestly have trouble wearing mascara now — the outpouring of compassion brings tears to my eyes almost daily as i read messages, notes, and comments from people all over the world who care about animals, the environment, and just want to help. The world is full of good people wanting to do some good!”

Your Used Makeup Could Help Animals in Need [Green Matters]

 

Although glass is recyclable, the recycling process is generally limited to large pieces that can be easily sorted by color. Because it’s not worth the effort to sort smaller fragments, they tend to simply be discarded. A new process, however, can convert them into a useful substance.

The proprietary technique was developed by PhD candidate Rhys Pirie and Prof. Damien Batstone, both of Australia’s University of Queensland. It incorporates what is described as “a chemical that most people would know as drain cleaner,” which is used to dissolve miscellaneous glass fragments into liquid silicate.

That liquid can subsequently be used in a wide variety of products, such as tires, detergents, toothpaste, concrete sealant and even crop fertilizer. It’s also utilized to make silica gel, which is the desiccant contained in little packets with electronic devices. It cannot, however, be made into new glass on a commercial scale.

Because glass consists of around 70 to 75 percent silica – which is what gets converted to liquid silicate – the process results in little waste. According to Pirie (pictured above), approximately 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) of waste glass is required to make 1 kg of silica gel.

The technique also requires relatively little energy, unlike traditional methods of producing liquid silicate. Partially because of this, the researchers estimate that their process is over 50 percent cheaper than existing production systems.

“At the moment these kinds of silicates […] are generated through a glass production route where you make glass effectively and you then turn it into a silicate product that is a soluble gel-type product,” says Batstone. “Instead of doing that, we’re going to take glass that has already been made and is actually waste, and take it through a much simpler process to turn it into this commercial silicate product.”

The university’s commercialization company, UniQuest, is now seeking partner companies that are interested in taking the technology to market.

New process converts unrecyclable glass into saleable product [New Atlas]

 

Studies have shown that happy employees are productive employees. Happiness can increase productivity by as much as 20 percent. Not convinced by that number? Let’s take a look at the flipside: unhappy workers cost the US between $450-$500 billion each year.

With these statistics in mind, let’s dive into a few tips that may help you retain employees and keep your current employees happy and engaged.

1.  Screen employees for cultural fit

As an employer, you already know it’s important to use an applicant background check to screen potential employees. It’s critical that you know who a prospective employee actually is. A thorough screening process may help filter out applicants with red flags like those who have a criminal history. However, it’s just as important to screen for a cultural fit as well.

Similar values between the employer and applicant is a proven measure of compatibility. 67% of workers believe that sharing values and core beliefs were important to workplace success.

Here are some questions you can ask to assess whether or not an applicant will be a good cultural fit for your company:

  • What are you looking for in terms of company culture?
  • What does your ideal workplace look like?
  • Why do you want to work with us?
  • What type of workplace culture do you thrive in?
  • Have you ever worked anywhere where you considered yourself to be a bad cultural fit? Why wasn’t the right fit?

These questions will — at the very least — guide you toward whether or not the applicant will do well within the organization. On a similar note, a strong culture and looking for applicants who would function efficiently within the company culture doesn’t mean you have an office full of identical people. An office with a strong, shared culture can be diverse but simply believe in the same core values.

2. Recognize achievements

One way to retain top performers is to take the time to recognize your employees. Workers who feel appreciated by upper management consistently perform better than those that don’t. If you have to provide feedback to an employee that includes criticism, do your best to sandwich it in between two compliments.

As a manager, make sure to regularly check in with employees and stay engaged to keep tabs on their happiness and workload.

Here are some unique ways to show employees appreciation:

  • Send them mail rather than an email
  • Let other employees reward them using apps like YouEarnedIt
  • Take them out to lunch
  • Give them an extra day of PTO
  • Celebrate work anniversaries

3. Provide perks

A cool workplace doesn’t just create itself. As an employer, you’ll have to take the time to really think about how to make your office stand out. Standard benefits like great healthcare, sick pay, and paid time off are still appreciated in today’s modern work landscape. However, there are plenty of other perks you can offer to encourage in-office friendships and promote the happiness of your employees:

  • Snacks
  • Unlimited PTO
    • This gives employees more freedom with how and when they use their vacation time
  • Paid leave for new parents
  • Student-loan debt reimbursement
  • Paid gym memberships
  • On-site child-care
  • Regular happy hours

Not every company can be Google and offer perks like on-site haircuts and free food for three meals a day, but you don’t have to be Google to give your employees creative perks. By thinking a little outside the box and paying attention to what your employees actually want, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of burnout and keep your workers happy.

4. Be a dog-friendly office

Research has proven that dogs in the office can boost workplace happiness. So, encourage your employees to bring their pooches in. Who can be angry at work when they’re greeted by a wagging tail every day?

5. Get some greenery

Plants help reduce stress and create a more cozy, vibrant office space. Here are some low-maintenance plants if you’re looking to add a little touch of green to your workplace:

  • Victorian Parlor Palm
  • Japanese Sago Palm
  • Aglaonema
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Dragon Tree

6. Encourage a work/life balance

If you have a lot of parents in the office, think about offering child-care. Introduce a flex schedule so employees can fit in their life obligations during the work day or simply choose what hours work best for them.

Conclusion

Creating a productive, happy workplace that encourages employees to be productive and engaged is crucial to your workplace success. By promoting a healthy company culture, providing your employees with meaningful perks, and recognizing achievements, you’ll be on your way to an amazing office.

Just imagine… It’s a sunny summer day, and you’re reclining on the grass by your local lake. The sun is glistening on the water. Ducks are happily gliding along with their duck pals. A cool breeze blows towards you, just as you were feeling a bit warm. Garbage is floating on the surface of the water, slowly poisoning fish and breaking down into micro plastics… Ah, what a classic 2019 image. These days, it’s hard to enjoy a serene body of water without coming across some sort of plastic pollution — and an Australian city has developed a local solution to that. The City of Kwinana recently installed drainage nets in its water reserve, and the innovative filtration system has gone viral for being so simple yet brilliant.

The City of Kwinana, which is a suburb of Perth, Australia, first shared a photo of one of its nets on Facebook in August. People quickly flooded the comments section to praise the invention, and six months later, the post is still being shared all over the internet. Once it started going viral, the city opened up about the system in a detailed blog post on the municipality’s website. There, Carol Adams, the mayor of the City of Kwinana, elaborated on exactly how the nets work.

“The nets are placed on the outlet of two drainage pipes, which are located between residential areas and natural areas. This allows the nets to capture the gross pollutants carried by storm water from the local road network before those pollutants are discharged and contaminate the natural environment at the downstream end of the outlet area,” Mayor Adams explained in a statement shared in the blog post. “This ensures that the habitat of the local wildlife is protected and minimizes the risk of wildlife being caught in the nets. To date no wildlife has been caught up in either of the City’s nets.”

Once nets fill up, city employees use a machine to lift them up and empty them into a truck. And no, it’s not just a garbage truck headed for landfill. The truck actually brings the debris to a sorting facility, where compostable waste (like food scraps and leaves) and recyclable items are sorted and properly composted or recycled before the remaining waste is sent to landfill. As The Guardian explained, landfills do not provide the proper conditions for biodegradable waste to break down, so it’s wonderful that Kwinana is going the extra mile and properly disposing of each item the nets capture.

From the time the two nets were installed at the Henley Reserve in March 2018, up until the post was written in August 2018, the nets filtered 370 kilograms (which is about 815 pounds) of waste from entering the city’s water reserves, Adams said. And the City of Kwinana has no plans to quit while they’re ahead. According to another post on the city’s website, the City of Kwinana’s Engineering Design Teamhas their eyes on three other spots along the Henley Reserve that they are going to propose outfitting with similar nets as part of the city’s 2019/2020 budget.

The idea looks pretty simple — but more work went into the nets than it seems. The City of Kwinana said that from start to finish, the two nets cost a little under $20,000. However, that fee is far less than what would have been required to hire a maintenance team to manually remove litter from the reserve. All of the work and finances invested so far are “expected to realise considerable cost savings in labour intensive work previously required to collect the rubbish scattered around the reserve by hand,” according to Kwinana’s blog post.

A representative for the City of Kwiwana’s Facebook page spoke with Green Matters via Facebook about the innovation, and the unexpectedly large amounts of debris they consistently catch. “In terms of cost efficiency, they are not as cost efficient as initially thought due to the high volume of material they trap, with some being organic matter including leaves,” the spokesperson told Green Matters. “This requires additional maintenance work to remove the trapped material which adds to the cost.”

Kwinana’s original Facebook post is full of comments about how genius and innovative the drainage nets are — but Kwinana is not the first to implement a drainage system like this. The Twitter account for Nelson, New Zealand tweeted that its council has been using a similar structure for a decade.

Kwinana’s post going viral shows how powerful social media can be when it comes to implementing environmental change. As the City of Kwiwana representative told Green Matters via Facebook, the post about the nets has been “a great success in raising community awareness across the globe in regards to protection of nature reserves and waterways from pollutants conveyed by storm water drainage systems.” The spokesperson also said that now, almost 10 months after the nets were originally installed, people are still contacting the city with questions about the nets. Hopefully Kwinana will inspire other municipalities to invest in drainage nets in the near future.

 

When working to reduce your environmental impact, swapping out single-use plastic water bottlesfor a reusable bottle is one of the simplest and most cost-effective choices a person can make. But a new company called Cove is hoping to make the single-use water bottle game a little easier on the environment with its 100 percent biodegradable water bottle. As reported by Fast Company, Cove will be launching soon — and the bottle is truly the first of its kind.

According to Cove’s website, the Cove water bottle is the “first bottle of water made entirely of biodegradable material.” The bottle is made of PHA, which is a “naturally occurring biopolymer,” and the label is made of paper, non-toxic inks, and non-toxic glue. After drinking an entire bottle, Cove’s website recommends reusing the bottle up until the use-by date, and then putting it in a compost bin. The website claims that the bottle will break down “in a compost or landfill, and even in soil, fresh water and the ocean.” However, Cove says science is unable to predict exactly how long the bottle will take to biodegrade.

It’s pretty unique that Cove can supposedly break down in settings besides a compost, because thus far, most bioplastics and other “eco-friendly” single-use water bottles actually have to be recycled or composted to reap the product’s benefits. For example, Just Water is branded as a better alternative to plastic bottles, but because its packaging contains a combination of paper, bioplastic, aluminum, and plastic film, the only responsible way to dispose of the bottle is by recycling it.

Alex Totterman, founder of Cove, spoke with Fast Company about why the bottle he designed is different. “PHA is the only polymer that’s fully biodegradable in all conditions,” Totterman told Fast Company. “So it’s kind of sidestepping the need for the recycling system we have … Most of all, this comes down to the very basic premise that we’re just trying to give people something real that they can do without seeming like it’s a big deal.”

If Totterman’s claim that Cove can break down in a landfill is actually true, it would be pretty revolutionary, seeing as most biodegradable items do not degrade in landfills. As explained by ThoughtCo, landfills are typically extremely crowded, and most trash is not exposed to the proper elements to help them biodegrade. And while the items sit in a landfill not biodegrading, they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, as explained by Ensia.

And the need for an alternative to single-use plastic bottles is dire. According to a case study by Watershed, every second, Americans consume approximately 1,500 bottles of water. And every year, Americans consume about 50 billion bottles of water. Props on staying hydrated, y’all, but that’s a lot. Not to mention, only 23 percent of plastic is recycled every year, meaning 38 billion water bottles become landfill trash or litter, Ban the Bottle added.

Additionally, Cove is working to keep its manufacturing process as local as possible. As explained on its website, the first shipment will only be available for order to those in California, and the water in those bottles will all be sourced from natural springs in California. As Cove expands, the company plans to continue sourcing water locally to make shipping distances as short as possible.

Poland Spring, you just can’t beat a reusable bottle in terms of environmental impact. It will be interesting to see what direction Cove goes in. Will Cove further promote America’s tendency to rely on single-use items, and make people feel like it’s OK to keep buying single-use waters when reusables are a better option? Or, will major drink retailers (such as companies that produce soda, plant milk, juice, and more) turn to Cove for its technology? That would be a welcome shift from the plastic and even non-recyclable packaging that many beverages are currently packaged in.

Cove is available for preorder on its website, with the first round of shipments available only to people across California, in May 2019. A 12-pack of bottles currently goes for $24. In the meantime, here’s a list of some of our favorite reusable water bottles.

This Completely Biodegradable Single-Use Water Bottle Could Change the Game [Green Matters]

 

It was just this Wednesday that we heard about a non-toxic flame-retardant solution created by scientists at Texas A and M University. Well, researchers at Switzerland’s Empa institute have also come up with one, which could be used to keep wood and wood-based building materials from burning.

Developed in partnership with Swiss company Bruag Fire Protection, the colorless liquid is known as AFA (Anti-Flame Additive). Effective in concentrations as low as 10 percent, it can be added to water-based paint or protective UV-resistant coatings which are then applied to wood, or it can be mixed into panels made from pressed wood fibers.

Its active chemical ingredient is an organophosphonate consisting of parts of phosphorus and nitrogen molecules, which have been combined into a single molecule. The additive reportedly doesn’t produce toxic vapors, nor does it incorporate toxic flame-retardant substances such as bromine, boron or halogenated organic compounds.

In lab tests, it has been shown to effectively keep the cellulose in wood from igniting. An official approval process is now underway, after which AFA may be available as a commercial product.

Non-toxic solution is claimed to make wood fire-resistant [New Atlas]

Plants are amazing little powerhouses, converting sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into energy. Over the last few years humans have tried to mimic this with artificial leaves, but they’re never quite up to scratch. Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have designed a new version that could work under real-world conditions, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and creating oxygen and synthetic fuels.

One of the first artificial leaves came out of Harvard in 2011, using sunlight to split water into harvestable hydrogen and oxygen gas. Other versions since then have used similar technologies to create electricity, liquid fuels, fertilizer, and even drugs. Currently, the most promising artificial leaves do a decent job of absorbing carbon dioxide, but only under lab conditions.

“So far, all designs for artificial leaves that have been tested in the lab use carbon dioxide from pressurized tanks,” says Meenesh Singh, corresponding author of the study. “In order to implement successfully in the real world, these devices need to be able to draw carbon dioxide from much more dilute sources, such as air and flue gas, which is the gas given off by coal-burning power plants.”

The UIC researchers say their new artificial leaf design is that kind of real-world ready. And it sounds surprisingly simple – it’s basically a regular old artificial photosynthesis unit, wrapped in a new transparent capsule. This outer layer is a semi-permeable membrane made of quaternary ammonium resin, and it’s filled with water.

The idea is that when the sun hits the device, the water slowly evaporates out through those pores. In its place, carbon dioxide is selectively sucked in from outside. In turn, that gas is converted into carbon monoxide by the artificial photosynthesis unit on the inside. From there, the carbon monoxide can be captured and used for a range of purposes, such as making synthetic fuels. Oxygen is a by-product as well, which can also be collected or just released back into the outside air, like a natural plant would do.

The researchers say their design would be up to 10 times more efficient at this process than a natural leaf. If enough of them are gathered in one place, that could produce a decent amount of fuel and do a good job of purifying the surrounding air.

The team calculated that in one day, 360 of these leaves – each measuring 170 cm long and 20 cm wide (67 x 7.9 in) – could be capable of producing half a ton of carbon monoxide, and pulling 10 percent of the carbon dioxide out of the air for about 100 m (328 ft) around the setup.

“By enveloping traditional artificial leaf technology inside this specialized membrane, the whole unit is able to function outside, like a natural leaf,” says Singh. “Our conceptual design uses readily available materials and technology, that when combined can produce an artificial leaf that is ready to be deployed outside the lab where it can play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Real-world-ready artificial leaf can pluck carbon dioxide out of thin air [New Atlas]

Millions of metric tons of plastic are produced each year and in reality, very little of it is recycled. But what if there were more ways of turning this waste into something valuable, such as new plastics or different types of fuel? Scientists at Purdue University have taken a promising step towards this goal with a new technology that can turn the majority of a commonly used plastic into the building blocks for all kinds of materials, something they hope can inspire new solutions for our plastic pollution problem.

Estimates vary on how much plastic winds up in landfill, how much ends up being recycled and how much washes into the ocean, but there’s no question plastic waste is a big problem. As an indication, a 2015 paper estimated that somewhere between 5 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste winds up in the ocean each year, and what happens to it from there is a great unknown.

The solution to this problem is far more complex than finding new ways of recycling the ubiquitous material, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Elsewhere, we have seen promising experimental technologies that can convert plastic bags into high-value carbon nanotubes, turn ocean plastics into usable diesel fuels and turn plastic bottles into other fuels and waxes.

The work at Purdue University focuses on a type of plastic called polyolefin, the most common type of thermoplastic that features in everything from bottle caps to scientific instruments.

“Our strategy is to create a driving force for recycling by converting polyolefin waste into a wide range of valuable products, including polymers, naphtha (a mixture of hydrocarbons), or clean fuels,” says Linda Wang, chemistry professor at Purdue University and leader of the research team. “Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”

In pursuing this strategy, Wang and her team turned to a technique called hydrothermal liquefaction, a process of heating materials up to moderate temperatures under high pressure to convert them into oil. In this case, the team was able to transform 91 percent of the polyolefin into oil consisting of paraffins, cyclics, aromatics and olefins, unsaturated hydrocarbons that serve as the foundation for polyolefins.

And that opens up a range of possibilities, according to the scientists. This oil and its ingredients can then be turned into gasoline blendstocks and feedstocks for other chemicals. They can also be separated into specialty solvents or fuels such as gasoline or diesel. So much so, the team estimates that the fuels generated from discarded polyolefin could meet around four percent of the globe’s demand for gasoline and diesel fuels each year.

To that end, the researchers have now teamed up with Purdue University’s Fuel Laboratory of Renewable Energy to try and optimize the conversion process. They are also looking for partners to help demonstrate the technology’s potential on a commercial scale.

Chemical conversion process gives plastic waste new life as fuel [New Atlas]

When cooking in the kitchen, where do your food scraps go? Hopefully, in the compost bin rather than the trash. Since organic matter naturally breaks down, composting vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and more is a more sustainable option than willingly sending that matter to the landfill.

But did you know that for some fruits and vegetables, there’s an even better alternative? Some food scraps can be used to regrow plants. What’s more sustainable than turning “garbage” into a plant?

Keep reading to learn how you can make the most out of your leftovers — and learn some gardening techniques in the process!

Celery

Once cut, place the base of the celery in a small bowl of warm water. It should be positioned by a sunny window and the water should be changed daily. The stalks will then start to regrow from the center of the celery. Roots can start growing within as little as five to eight days.

Repot the plant in soil but be wary of replanting it outside. Squirrels, rabbits, and other animals like deer could start munching on your celery!

Avocado

You can grow an avocado tree from the pit of an open avocado. To start, keep the pit dry, as the top part of the pit will sprout once the tree starts growing; the bottom of the root (the broad end) must be kept in water. In order to keep the top half of the pit dry while the bottom is wet, you’ll need to insert three toothpicks into the pit in the shape of a triangle: one on the left, one on the right, one on top (or a square, as seen above).

The toothpicks should rest on the rim of a cup of water but prop up the avo pit so the top half doesn’t get wet. Keep it in a warm and sunny spot. Roots should start growing in anywhere from two to six weeks.

Pineapple

Regrowing a pineapple from scraps takes a lot of time and effort — about six months. Start by twisting off the leaves from the fruit itself. None of the pineapple flesh should be attached to the leaves; if it is, it will rot. Cut the base of the leaves so that the brown spots, which are the root buds, are visible. Remove some of the leaves so that one inch of the stalk is bare. Now, submerge the pineapple stem in a few inches of water. The leaves will rot but the stalk will eventually start to grow roots.

Change out the water in the glass every few days and make sure the stem doesn’t touch the bottom of the glass, or else the roots won’t have anywhere to grow. Replant the plant once there are roots, and eventually, a pineapple will grow and develop from the center.

How to Regrow Plants From Kitchen Scraps [Green Matters]

Food and beverage giant Nestlé is ramping up its efforts to rein in plastic pollution, outlining plans to phase out plastic straws and hard plastics as part of a wider plan to use purely recyclable and reusable materials in its products by 2025.

Nestlé’s plans around plastic pollution and alternative materials have been gathering steam for a little while now. The world’s second largest food and drink company first announced its plans to use 100 percent recyclable and reusable materials by 2025 in April last year, and has piece-by-piece been laying out a roadmap to achieve this aim.

In December 2018 it announced plans for an Institute of Packaging Sciences to research and develop alternative materials, and it seems the company already has something to show for it.

It says that from February onwards, plastic straws will be eliminated from all Nestlé products with “alternative materials like paper” to be used instead, while new packaging designs will be rolled out to cut down on littering. Popular products like Nesquik and Smarties will also be going plastic free in 2019, while Milo will be packaged in paper-based pouches by 2020.

The company notes that 100 percent recyclability doesn’t solve the plastic pollution problem as a whole. As such, it has other ventures in the works, like an effort to target plastic leaking into the ocean in South East Asia by partnering with Project STOP, an initiative to promote sustainable and low-cost waste systems that also supports informal waste gatherers in the region’s coastal areas.

“Our broader vision and action plan outline our commitment and specific approach to addressing the plastics packaging waste issue,” says Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider.

Nestlé to pull plastic straws from its products as it ramps up its war on waste [New Atlas]

Many of Spain’s Paradores — a chain of state-owned, luxury hotels — are ancient castles and monasteries that have been around for, well, forever. But the country is embracing the future by introducing renewable energy at all 97 locations.

The country announced that, beginning on the first of January, the Paradores will only get their electricity from renewable sources as part of a deal they signed with Endesa, a Spanish utility company. The chain of hotels — which has been operating for 90 years — is hoping to inspire other companies around the country, and be a leader in climate action as a state-owned operation.

“Paradores is a company that supports sustainable tourism in every sense of the word,” the company’s chair, Óscar López Águeda said, per The Guardian. “What’s more, as a public company, we also want to set an example when it comes to investments that encourage energy saving and responsible consumption.”

Despite the dedication to sustainability, the company stated that they still plan to use natural gas for the time being, with no immediate plans to stop.

“Natural gas is less polluting than some of the other sources that hotels have traditionally used,” the Paradores’ Head of Communications, Sonia Sánchez Plaza, told the Observer. “But we are gradually eliminating our fuel oil consumption and we have an ambitious plan to bring renewable energies into Paradores, including biomass, solar, and geothermal energy.”

In addition to embracing renewable energy sources, the company — which employs more than 4,000 people — is also looking to help the planet in other ways. Sánchez explained, “We have a lot of environmental projects, both when it comes to enjoying and looking after our surrounding and to restoring flora and fauna and eliminating plastics.”

While Paradores is ahead of the trend when it comes to renewable energy, Spain recently set a goal of having 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 — and shut down many coal mines as a part of the process.

Spain Brings Renewable Energy to State-Owned Paradores [Green Matters]

A solar-powered desalination method inspired by plants could produce up to twice the amount of clean water as typical solar methods.

Developed by a team from Politecnico di Torino, the prototype desalination system relies on a porous membrane that collects seawater as it floats on the water’s surface. The water is then heated by solar energy, with the process facilitated by membranes that keep the clean and contaminated water separate.

To achieve their higher clean water output, the team focused on efficient management of the solar energy, recycling the heat in several cascade evaporation processes. According to the development team, “Technologies based on this process are typically called ‘multi-effect’, and here we provide the first evidence that this strategy can be very effective for ‘passive’ desalination technologies as well.”

Solar-Powered Desalination Inspired by Plants [Ideaconnection]

Each year, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) conducts a review of tall building trends. The influential body offers some fascinating insights in its 2018 Year in Review, including the continued importance of China as the world leader in tall building commissions.

2018 saw a total of 143 buildings measuring at least 200 m (656 ft) completed, which is just slightly down from a record breaking 147 last year. This brings the total in the world to 1,478. Most of these, 864, have been completed since 2010 (CTBUH only acknowledges larger-than-200 m buildings because of better record keeping, so smaller buildings are ignored).

If you stacked all 2018’s tall buildings atop each other, they’d reach a height of 35,246 m (115,636 ft), which, like in 2017, would reach the Earth’s stratosphere. They would also exceed the length of Manhattan Island if laid end-to-end.

China remains far out in front of the rest of the world when it comes to tall building construction, with a total of 88 built in the country. Indeed, Shenzhen alone had more tall buildings completed – a total of 14 – than the entire USA, which came second behind China in the country rankings with 13. It underlines the incredible tall building growth in the far-east.

The tallest building to be completed in 2018 was the 528 m (1,732 ft)-tall Citic Tower in Beijing, shown above. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), it’s yet another masterful project from the American skyscraper expert.

The skyscraper’s design is inspired by a traditional Chinese ritualistic wine vessel named Zun and takes the form of a square with rounded corners. Its width alternates significantly at different points: from its 78 m (255 ft) base to its 54 m (177 ft) mid-point and 69 m (226 ft) top.

The Citic Tower is now officially the 8th-tallest building in the world, which has resulted in a shakeup of the top 10 rankings. The 484 m (1588 ft)-tall International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, also by KPF, has dropped down from 10th place to become the 11th-tallest building in the world. KPF is still responsible for half of the world’s top 10 tallest skyscrapers though.

Looking to the future, the CTBUH expects around 120 to 150 tall buildings to be completed in 2019. Head to the gallery to see a small selection of some of 2018’s tallest skyscrapers, including two more by KPF.

The only way is up: CTBUH reveals 2018’s tall building trends [New Atlas]

There is a growing contingent of environmentally minded startups and researchers looking to recycle CO2 into useful products, with the possibilities including everything from foam mattresses, to lightweight carbon fiber to concrete. The soda industry is one place where you can bet there will be a massive demand for the gas, and its about to get a little bit cleaner with Coca-Cola HBC signing a deal to use CO2 captured by Swiss startup Climeworks for its Valser mineral water.

Climeworks is a Swiss energy startup that aims to collect carbon from industrial facilities through what is known as Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology. Its systems work by drawing ambient air in through an integrated filter system using huge fans. Those filters are made from a material that selectively captures CO2, which can then be treated and put to use in products ranging including solar fuels, agricultural products and now carbonated beverages.

Currently, companies like Coca-Cola HBC mostly use CO2 sourced from factories set up to create other chemicals, such as natural gas or ammonia fertilizer, but produce CO2 as a byproduct that can be bottled and sold. But a CO2 shortage in Europe this year suggests identifying other sources of the gas wouldn’t be a bad idea, and CO2 bound for the atmosphere seems a good place to start.

It’s worth noting that it will end up there anyway. As a soda bottle is popped or a can is cracked, the CO2 inside is released into the atmosphere. But hey, being recycled one time is better than not being recycled at all. And this is far from the first example of a company making fizzy drinks with recycled CO2, with efforts dating back to the early 2000s.

But the agreement between Coca-Cola HBC is a large feather in the cap for Climeworks, which is at the vanguard of current DAC technology. It has grand ambitions but faces a huge task in making DAC a viable commercial venture as the practice is currently prohibitively expensive. They told usearlier in the year that it costs them around US$600 to capture a single ton of CO2, though they are confident of driving the costs down as the technology improves and more plants open.

“We are proud to be the first beverage company in the world to drive the development of this groundbreaking technology,” says Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland General Manager Nigel Davis. “Sustainability is part of our strategic business priorities. We are constantly looking for ways to further reduce our environmental footprint in everything we do. We are all the more pleased that we can now support a local Swiss company. ”

Coca-Cola mineral water to use captured carbon for fizz [New Atlas]