Styrofoam is not eco-friendly stuff. It’s made from petroleum, it can’t be efficiently recycled, it’s non-biodegradable, and it creates pollution when burned. A new plant-based foam reportedly has none of those drawbacks, however, plus it’s claimed to actually insulate better than regular Styrofoam.

Developed by scientists at Washington State University, the experimental foam consists of about 75 percent cellulose nanocrystals. Not only is it said to surpass the insulating capabilities of petroleum-based foam, but it can also support 200 times its own weight without deforming, it degrades thoroughly, and it doesn’t produce ash when incinerated.

To produce it, the researchers started by utilizing a process known as acid hydrolysis. This cleaved chemical bonds within cellulose derived from wood pulp, converting it into the nanocrystals. Polyvinyl alcohol was then added to those crystals, bonding with them to create an elastic, uniformly-structured foam.

And while other groups have previously created cellulose-based foams of their own, Washington State claims that those materials don’t insulate as well as its does, plus they degrade at high temperatures or in humid environments.

“We have used an easy method to make high-performance, composite foams based on nanocrystalline cellulose with an excellent combination of thermal insulation capability and mechanical properties,” says co-lead scientist Asst. Prof. Amir Ameli. “Our results demonstrate the potential of renewable materials, such as nanocellulose, for high-performance thermal insulation materials that can contribute to energy savings, less usage of petroleum-based materials, and reduction of adverse environmental impacts.”

No, not that McLaren. We’re talking this time about the British motorhome conversion shop with the lowercase “L”, Mclaren Sports Homes. The Leigh-based outfit’s latest project turns the Volkswagen Crafter into an all-out adventure machine. The hardy Savage camper van wears a full array of all-terrain equipment and packs dirt bikes or mountain bikes in a reinforced garage below a power-lift bed. Start your adventure on four wheels and continue on two.

Similar to what we’ve seen come out of Harrogate-based RP Motorhomes, Mclaren specializes in both regular camper vans and bike/gear-hauling “sporthomes” with integrated garages. The Savage smashes these two worlds into one, combining the camper van and the sporthome into a versatile all-terrain adventure rig.

Previous Mclaren conversions have their camper interiors walled off from the rear storage compartments, both the full garages on the sporthomes and the more compact trunk areas on the camper vans. With the Savage, Mclaren opens things up, creating a more open, seamless interior space that runs from driver cockpit to rear load doors.

The rear of the Savage is the most interesting part of the design, performing as both a gear-hauling space and a bedroom courtesy of the power-lift double bed. The bed sits above a garage area with diamond plate flooring and tie-down track, adjusting in height around the cargo inside.

The Savage can swallow motorbikes or bicycles, and the passthrough aisle to the front of the van means drivers can even load long items that might not fit in Mclaren’s typical sporthome garages — surfboards, kayaks, paddleboards, etc. With the height-adjustable bed, the van can also carry tall standing items that wouldn’t fit inside the shorter sporthome garages that sit below raised beds inside.

All in all, the Savage is a versatile van for those who want to take large gear on their road trips. The lift-away bed should also prove quite valuable for everyday cargo hauling (e.g. carrying home improvement supplies).

The Savage looks much like any other camper van up ahead of its adjustable garage/bedroom. Mclaren fills out the van’s belly with a kitchen block and wet bath. The compact kitchen has a dual-burner stove and sink below flush tops and a small refrigerator below the counter. A side-facing bench sits in front of the wet bath on the other side.

At this point, the Savage looks quite similar to a Crafter version of other lift-away rear bed adventure vans, such as the Winnebago Revel or Adria Twin Supreme 640 SGX. As more of a custom shop, though, Mclaren puts its own sporty, ruggedized imprint on the design. Inside, the Savage includes swiveling Recaro sport seats and leather and Alcantara trim. Outside, Mclaren ups ruggedness and off-roadability with a set of BFGoodrich all-terrain tires on 17-in Black Rhino wheels, rock sliders and a 300W LED light bar. It also tacks on a rear ladder and Fiamma awning.

Campsite energy comes from a 110-Ah leisure battery, 100-W solar panel and 20-L refillable LPG tank. Water is held in 90-L fresh and 50-L waste tanks, and a Truma Combi 4e heats both the water and camper interior. An exterior hookup provides for hot outdoor showers.

Mclaren coordinates closely with customers on personalized builds, so prices can vary accordingly. The Savage demo model with the aforementioned specs listed for £66,000 (approx. US$85,775) when Mclaren introduced it in February. Surprisingly, there’s no mention of 4Motion on that model, though we’d imagine Mclaren would be more than happy to source an all-wheel-drive Crafter for a customer Savage build.

Mclaren gets Savage with all-terrain, bike-hauling Volkswagen camper van [New Atlas]

These days, the capabilities of the humble shovel don’t necessarily need to end with digging holes. Over the past few years we’ve seen crafty gearmakers work all kinds of complimentary bits and pieces into the typical shovel design, ranging from fishing lines to matches to flashlights and many things in between. The latest comes from EST Gear and packs an impressive 18 tools into one, and can be taken apart and packed neatly into a pouch for easy carry into the wilderness.

Currently the subject of an Indiegogo campaign, the EST Shovel is an adventure tool that is, first and foremost, a shovel, with a carbon steel spade and military-grade aluminum handle to lighten the load. It features a serrated edge along one side of the blade to help take on tougher materials and a foam grip for easier handling.

The shovel includes a further 17 tools in all, and here is the complete list: an axe, knife, spear, bottle opener, fire starter, wire-cutter, trowel, hexagon wrenches, nail puller, pick, ruler, hook, waterproof storage, screw driver, whistle, compass and rope cutter.

This is an impressive array of functionality, particularly considering the EST Shovel weighs a very manageable 2.5 lb (1.1 kg). Further adding to the portability of this versatile multi-tool is the modular form. This means the shovel can be pulled apart and individual tools used as needed, but also that they can be slipped into a purpose-built carry pouch for transport.

EST Shovel aims to be your ultimate adventure companion with 18 tools in one [New Atlas]

There’s a sense of irony in the development of new food-related technologies, as they’ve unfolded over the past several hundred years. We’ve gotten miraculously efficient at cultivating and distributing mass quantities of calorie-dense food, and for cheap. We’ve also gotten really good at making foods so tasty we eat them even when we’re not hungry, and so accessible it’s hard to turn them down. The end result is that many food companies are engaging in unsustainable practices, many consumers are overeating, and most of us aren’t providing our bodies with the nutrition they need to stay healthy.

Thankfully, we’re entering a new era, where entrepreneurs are founding startups to provide us with healthier, more sustainable options—and ones that are just as delicious and inexpensive as the junk foods that surround us every day.

The Healthy Startups That Want You to Eat Better

These are just some of the health-focused startups hoping to change the way we eat for the better:

  1. The Jar – Healthy Vending. First up, there’s The Jar – Healthy Vending, a London-based startup that provides vending machines to businesses and locations at no cost, featuring a wide range of locally-sourced, nutritious foods. Packed with options like salads, juices, snacks, and desserts, these vending machines are a simple and convenient way for busy professionals, students, and customers to pick up something quick and healthy to fill their stomachs. You can even purchase multiple items at once for a full meal, selected a-la-carte.
  2. Blue Apron. Blue Apron is one of the biggest names in meal delivery, providing customers with all the ingredients they need to make a healthy home-cooked meal. With it, you can create a meal for yourself in 35 minutes or less, with a total calorie count between 500 and 700—all with locally or sustainably sourced ingredients.
  3. Beyond Meat. Beyond Meat’s recent IPO generated tons of headlines, but the company has long been striving for a better meat alternative. Essentially, the company makes meat from vegetable proteins, attempting to recreate not just the function, but also the look, taste, smell, and feel of real meat. Vegetable-based meats would be much more sustainable for the planet, and could have health benefits to the average consumer as well.
  4. Soylent. Soylent is a product designed as a “food alternative.” It’s a nutritious, affordable drink that provides you with everything your body needs, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. You can prepare an entire day of sustenance in just 3 minutes, and ensure you’re getting everything your body needs.
  5. Revolution Foods. School cafeteria food is notoriously bad, in terms of quality, sustainability, nutrition, and even taste, but Revolution Foods is out to make improvements. This company provides minimally processed foods with little to no artificial flavors or additives, and puts an emphasis on fruits and vegetables for school meals.
  6. Plated. Plated is another meal delivery service, sending you a box of pre-portioned, locally sourced ingredients every week. With it, you can pick and choose your options, and rest assured that no ingredient is wasted. And if you’re not around to pick up the delivered box the moment it arrives, you don’t have to worry, since your food will stay chilled for up to 24 hours.
  7. Instacart. Instacart is a different kind of startup that focuses on more standard grocery shopping, rather than meal delivery. With it, you’ll get a personal shopper in your area. You’ll give them a grocery list, and they’ll head to a local supermarket (or several), and provide you with all the groceries you need in a matter of hours. It’s more convenient, and can stop the temptation of deviating from your grocery list with junk food.

Changing the World, One Startup at a Time

The more we learn about the nuances of nutrition and the long-term effects of unhealthy eating, the more obvious it becomes that we need more sustainable food habits—both as individuals and as businesses. These startups are taking the first necessary steps toward a new era of healthy, sustainable eating, and they’re sparking a trend that will (hopefully) last for generations to come.

New York City may not have a lot of greenery — but the metropolis is slowly getting greener. Just in time for Earth Day, the New York City Council passed a group of bills, known as both OneNYC2050 and NYC’s Green New Deal. The $14 billion act is full of bills all working towards a singular goal: a 40 percent reduction of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050.

One of the most interesting bills is one being referred to as the Green Roofs act. As explained by Dwell, the Green Roofs act will require all new buildings in NYC, whether they are residential or commercial, to outfit their roofs with plants, solar panels, and/or mini wind turbines. The legislation would also apply to buildings undergoing significant renovations. Additionally, NYC will eventually require all 50,000 buildings that are 25,000 square feet large or more to lower their emissions and energy use. Buildings that do not comply will be fined. Furthermore, any new building going up in NYC will not be allowed to feature an all-glass facade, because all-glass buildings usually consume more energy, according to Treehugger.

New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal co-sponsored the bill, and he explained in a statement why he pushed for these green roofs. “Today, we are passing a bill that won’t just make our skyline prettier—it will also improve the quality of life for New Yorkers for generations to come,” Espinal said, according to Dwell. “They cool down cities by mitigating the urban heat island effect, cut energy costs, absorb air pollution, reduce stormwater runoff, promote biodiversity, provide soundproofing, and make our cities more livable for all.”

In addition to the Green Roofs act, the New York City Council passed several other pieces of legislation to get NYC to its 2030 goal. In city-managed facilities (such as NYC public schools, prisons, and hospitals), NYC plans to entirely phase out processed meats and to cut red meat purchasing in half by 2040, according to Friends of the Earth. Meat has a high carbon footprint, not to mention, it poses plenty of negative health risks, so the decision to reduce NYC’s reliance on it could make a huge impact on NYC’s emissions as well as New Yorkers’ health.

“Building on the success of implementing Meatless Mondays at all New York City public schools, the City will reduce the purchasing of beef by 50 percent,” reads a statement on OneNYC2050’s website. “Beef has a relatively high environmental footprint compared to poultry, pork, and plant based foods. Beef cattle, managing manure, and manufacturing fertilizer produces nitrous oxide and methane, two climate-warming pollutants 298 and 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, respectively. Processed meat consumption is linked with increased risk of cancer and is often high in saturated fat and sodium which is linked with heart disease. This policy would offer health benefits to the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

“I am particularly thrilled that this city has taken up our mantle to reduce our overconsumption of meat through the phasing out of processed meat purchasing and the reduction of beef purchasing,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement that was sent to Green Matters. “Make no mistake, addressing the carbon-intensive activity of meat production is a sustainable solution for the health of our bodies and our planet alike.”

OneNYC2050 also dictates a few other things that New York will implement to inch closer to the new goal. New York will: move away from single-use plastic wares; help expand resources for sustainability and climate education in schools; work to increase civic engagement regarding climate change; spread awareness about flood risks and flood insurance; and expand the GreeNYC program.

NYC is not the first city to set such aspirational climate goals. Most recently, Chicago pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and to convert its bus fleet to 100 percent electric power by 2040. That declaration allowed Chicago to join a group of more than 100 U.S. cities with similar goals, known as the Ready for 100 club. NYC’s 2050 goal of carbon neutrality should qualify the city for the Ready for 100 Club, so hopefully the Big Apple will be named a member soon.

New York City Passes a Green New Deal, Requiring ‘Green Roofs’ on New Buildings [Green Matters]

Hammock tents have become somewhat of a staple in the outdoor world, wrapping a hammock or suspended tent floor up with waterproof-breathable fabric and mosquito mesh. The all-new Tammock from Lit Outdoors puts a spin on the genre, flipping the hammock out of the trees and into a ground tent. Sandy beaches, desert sandstone, high-alpine rock and other stretches of treeless earth suddenly become 100 percent compatible with the breezy, swaying comfort of hammock camping.

Having put some hammock tents to the test, we’ve come to realize that they’re quite comfy to sleep in but can limit your options. When we packed a Tentsile on a trip to the Southern Utah desert, there simply weren’t trees available for stringing it up. On another trip to the Maroon Bells Wilderness, tree availability wasn’t an issue but camping was restricted to tent pads, no hammocks in the trees. So during an entire summer of camping, there was only one or two times we got to sleep up above ground.

The founders of Utah’s Lit Outdoors have been camping in some of the same desert campsites we visited last summer, and they’ve run into the same lack of trees. They designed the Tammock for those types of areas, doing their testing in the superlative deserts of Southern Utah, where you’ll find some of the world’s best camping and recreational opportunities, but often not much in the way of trees.

To make a more grounded breed of hammock tent, Lit has combined a straightforward freestanding tent frame with a hammock frame similar to ones used in other portable hammock designs. The hammock frame ends up working as part of the exoskeleton frame, holding the hammock inside the tent.

To prevent the tent fabric from taking away from the hammock experience, Tammock equips it with a mesh-heavy canopy and large roll-up side doors, allowing campers to enjoy a breezy hang in fair weather. The doors also allow users to sit comfortably sideways, as well as lengthwise. A separate rainfly battens the hatches should blue skies turn dark gray.

The Tammock’s hammock frame can be used independently of the tent, allowing for a fully open hang much like other portable hammocks. Lit tells us that the tent can also be used separately, for those times when you don’t want to bring along the bulky hammock frame.

Nuts and bolts-wise, the three-season Tammock tent features 70D ripstop nylon and a fiberglass tent pole. The entire hammock tent system weighs in at around 20 lb (9 kg) and measures 12 x 4 x 2.8 feet (3.7 x 1.2 x 0.9 m, L x H x W) when set up and 44 x 8 in (112 x 20-cm) when packed in the carry case. The hammock can hold up to 400 lb (181 kg).

Lit Outdoors has been developing the Tammock for nearly three years and has set up manufacturing in China. It’s now hosting a Kickstarter campaign to officially launch, offering the full Tammock kit (tent, hammock, frame, rainfly and stakes) for pledge levels starting at US$299. It’s already scorched past its goal, and if things continue going along as planned, shipments will begin in September.

The Tammock flips the hammock tent around into a freestanding ground tent [New Atlas]

Electronic contact lenses have been in development for over a decade by a number of labs around the world. Having electronics integrated into a contact lens may provide medical capabilities, such as measuring intraoccular pressure, analyzing tears for glucose levels, and aiding people with poor vision. While the science of making smart contact lenses has progressed quite a bit, there’s still a major challenge of how to power these devices so they can do impressive feats and do so for long periods of time.

Researchers at IMT Atlantique, a French engineering university, working with folks from LCS, a contact lens manufacturer based in Caen, have now developed a way to integrate a flexible battery into a contact lens. The micro-battery is able to provide enough power to illuminate a light-emitting diode (LED) for a few hours, which is probably the first time that so much power was available inside a contact lens. Previously, researchers generally relied on wireless energy transmission, which is extremely limited at how much useful power it can deliver.

“This first project is part of a larger and very ambitious project aimed at creating a new generation of oculometers linked to the emergence of augmented reality helmets that have given rise to new uses (man-machine interfaces, cognitive load analysis, etc.). This opens up huge markets, while at the same time imposing new constraints on precision and integration.” in a published statemens said IMT Atlantique professor Jean-Louis de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye

The researchers aren’t necessarily looking at medical uses for their technology, but that’s certainly on the menu as other engineers will be able to take advantage of this to power health-based contacts.

Electronic Contact Lenses Can Now Integrate Micro-Battery to Power Them [Medgadget]

Nobody likes having blood samples taken, which is why we’ve seen a number of devices that gather sweat from the skin and then analyze it. An inexpensive new bandage-like biosensor simplifies that concept, as it doesn’t incorporate any electronic components.

Developed by scientists from China and the US, the device consists of an adhesive-backed flexible polyester film that’s coated with a super-hydrophobic (water-repelling) silica suspension. Etched into that coating are four tiny super-hydrophilic (water-attracting) wells.

When the biosensor is applied to a patient’s skin like a bandage, their perspiration gets channeled into those microwells, where it collects. Dyes applied to the bottom of each well subsequently change color according to the sweat’s pH level, and its concentrations of chloride, glucose and calcium.

A smartphone camera and app are then used to assess the color of the wells, providing users with a readout of the four parameters – although the data is obtained from sweat, it corresponds to levels within the patient’s body. When tested on a volunteer who was perspiring as they exercised, the device/app determined that their sweat had a pH level of 6.5 to 7.0, a chloride concentration of about 100 mM (nanomolars), and trace amounts of calcium and glucose.

The scientists – from the University of Science and Technology Beijing, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of California-Davis – are now working on improving the device’s sensitivity. A paper on their research has been published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

The end of a marathon is kind of like your living room the morning after a house party — except instead of red Solo cups all over your nice carpet, there are usually numerous single-use water bottles littered all along the race route. And while that was still the case at this year’s London Marathon, the event did have significantly less plastic waste than usual. That was thanks to the innovative replacement for plastic water bottles that marathon staff handed out to runners: Ooho water capsules, which are edible seaweed pods filled with a sports drink.

As reported by CNN, at mile 23 of the annual London Marathon, which was held on Sunday, April 28 this year, volunteers handed Ooohos out to runners. The pods were filled with Sports drink company Lucozade Sport‘s orange-flavored beverage, which is vegan and gluten-free. Sustainable packaging startup Skipping Rocks Lab developed the pods, and worked with Lucozade Sport to fill them with its orange flavor. As explained on Skipping Rocks Lab’s website, the pods are made from Notpla, a material derived from seaweed and plants.

Here’s how the Oohos work. Wearing disposable sanitary gloves, marathon volunteers hold the pods out for marathon runners to grab, just like they would with cups or bottles. Runners are instructed to gently take an Ooho, stick it in their mouth, and then bite down on it. Lucozade Sport says it feels like of like biting down on a cherry tomato. Athletes then swallow the liquid, and can choose to either swallow the seaweed membrane, which is completely edible, or drop it on the ground, where it will biodegrade in about six weeks, according to Lucozade Sport. Runners can also bite off a corner of the pouch, suck out the liquid, and then drop the membrane on the ground, Lucozade Sport claims.

“The marathon is a milestone,”  Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, co-founder of Skipping Rocks Lab, told CNN. “We are hoping we will demonstrate that it can be used at scale in the future.” As explained on Skipping Rocks Lab’s website, the pods are made from Notpla, a material derived from seaweed and plants. “What we use is the building blocks of seaweed,” Garcia Gonzalez explained to CNN. “We remove all the green stuff and the smelly stuff.”

The Oohos were developed with the goal of reducing plastic waste at sporting events, so the London Marathon was the perfect place for Ooho to do this trial, which was its biggest ever. Skipping Rocks Lab uses “compact manufacturing technology” to produce Oohos, meaning they can be manufactured locally, minimizing the cost of shipping and the product’s environmental impact.

The London Marathon is far from zero-waste, but the event’s organizers did make a few other moves this year to make the race more sustainable. As CNN reported, two other drink stations used compostable cups to hand out beverages, every water bottle used this year was made with some recycled content, and staff members recycled every bottle. Additionally, the London Marathon tweeted that there were recycling “drop zones” all along the marathon, and that runners were given reusable capes and bottle belts.

That said, photos of the roads littered with plastic bottles surfaced on Twitter shortly after the marathon. “Why does an event have to be at the detriment of the planet?” Twitter account 2 Minute Beach Cleantweeted. “Not recycled either, confirmed by a road sweep. Only bottles at the water stations were recycled.”

The London Marathon’s official Twitter account responded to the tweet, ensuring that every bottle got taken to a sorting facility and recycled. (Though, as you’ve probably read by now, only 9 percent of plastics actually get recycled, according to a statistic shared by National Geographic.)

Plus, as CNN noted, the use of Oohos and compostable cups reduced the approximate number of plastic water bottles used at the London Marathon to 704,000 this year, down from 920,000 last year. Hopefully other sporting events will continue finding innovative ways to reduce plastic use at future events.

Edible Seaweed Pouches Replaced Plastic Bottles at London Marathon, Reducing Water Bottle Use [Green Matters]

Different tasks require different types of screwdrivers. If you don’t want to buy all of those types, though, you might be interested in Mininch’s Spinner Drive – it’s described as the one screwdriver to rule them all.

The Spinner Drive package consists of a pen-shaped aluminum drive unit, an aluminum torque wheel, and an assortment of bits that are kept in a revolver-cylinder-like aluminum/ABS storage unit.

For fine manipulations, such as replacing tiny screws in eyeglasses or cameras, users start by mounting the appropriate bit in the magnetic bottom end of the drive unit. They subsequently hold that unit against the screw by pressing their index finger into a dimple on the unit’s top end, then they tighten or loosen the screw by turning the lower end of the unit with their middle finger and thumb. Bearings within the shaft of the drive unit ensure that it turns smoothly.

For working with larger and/or tighter screws, the torque wheel gets slid onto the drive unit. Users then turn the unit by gripping that wheel in their hand, applying much more torque than would otherwise be possible.

And finally, the magnetic bit-holder can be removed from the end of the drive unit and mounted in the chuck of an electric drill, for tasks that require even more power.

The Spinner Drive is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where backers can choose between two versions. There’s the Standard Edition, in which the bits are made of S2 tool steel that’s coated with corrosion-resistant manganese phosphate, and then there’s the hardier Tough Edition, featuring SUS420 stainless steel bits coated in titanium nitride

Backers can get a Standard Edition (in their choice of silver or black) that includes 10 bits and a carrying case, for a pledge of US$39. For the Tough Edition, a pledge of $45 is required. Assuming the Spinner Drive goes to production, the planned retail prices are $64 and $70, respectively. Packages with 20 bits are also available.

Modular screwdriver designed to do it all [New Atlas]

Perhaps best-known for its diesel engines and robotic agricultural equipment, Japanese company Yanmar also makes personal watercraft. Its latest addition to the latter category is a little something known as the Wheeebo, which is kind of like an aquatic Segway.

Due to be released next year at a yet-to-be-announced price, the Wheeebo takes the form of a thick floating disc which the user stands upon.

They then simply shift their body weight in the direction that they wish to travel, with integrated sensors detecting that shift and causing the electric-motored craft to accelerate, stop or turn accordingly. While Yanmar has referred to a “propeller mounted under the board,” it’s not immediately clear if that prop swivels in different directions, if it has a steerable rudder behind it, or what.

Speed is controlled by a wireless handheld remote, which is used to switch between two modes – the Wheeebo tops out at a modest walking-speed-like 3 knots (3.5 mph, or 5.6 km/h). Power is provided by a nickel-hydrogen battery pack, which should offer a greater number of charge cycles but lower energy density than the more traditional lithium-ion technology. A single charge is good for a claimed 60 minutes of runtime.

Not surprisingly, the Wheeebo is intended for use in calm conditions, in salt or fresh water. It will be available in two diameters – 140 and 150 cm/55 and 59 inches – depending on rider weight and intended usage.

Stand-up electric saucer is set for the sea [New Atlas]

 

Carrying capacity and a little organization are a couple of essentials for travelers, and luggage startup Halton has taken aim at both with its new Commuter backpack. Currently on Kickstarter, the bag functions like a regular backpack when on the move, but can be unfurled into a multi-compartment flat organizer with a single unzipping.

With a 25-liter capacity and full waterproofing, the Commuter Backpack is a perfectly capable bag in its own right. There’s a sturdy leather handle up top, an RFID-safe pocket, padded shoulder straps and a waist buckle for comfortable carry. It includes 17 compartments in all, including a shoe pocket, padded laptop sleeve and plenty of mesh or sealed pockets for different odds and ends.

But where the organization really kicks into gear is when the pack is unfolded entirely via a single zipper that runs along its entire length. Purpose-built hooks have been built into the top of what then becomes a hang-anywhere organizer bag, for your hotel room or the side of your car, offering ready and open access to all your belongings.

There are also optional attachments that can be hooked up to expand its functionality further, such as a hanging laundry bag or hip packs that can be pulled off and worn when on the move.

It’s a neat idea that appears well executed, and the Kickstarter crowd seems to agree having pledged US$33,000 towards the campaign at the time of writing, already surpassing Halton’s goal of $25,000. Of course, there is still plenty to play out, but a pledge of $145 will have a Halton Commuter backpack headed your way in July if everything goes to plan.

Commuter backpack unfurls into a hanging organizer via a single zip [New Atlas]

One of the key reasons why many start-ups fail is running out of cash. A business comes with many expenses, some of which are unforeseen and you have to be prepared to handle them all. Proper financial management is also essential for the success of your business. This article highlights some tips you can follow to financially prepare when starting a business to avoid failure or financial strain.

Estimate Start-up Costs Well

The cost of starting every business is different. Your start-up costs will depend on the size of the business, nature of the products and services, location, and workforce, among many others. To avoid running out of money even before the business opens, estimate the costs well and give some allowance when making a budget.

Consider the Cash Flow

In addition to the initial cost of opening a business, you also need to think about cash flow. Most businesses take time to make profits and thus you have to ensure you have enough money to cover expenses before your first profits. Lack of money to pay for the day to day expenses can cause you to close down your business. Therefore, ensure you have a plan to cover your expenses for a few months or even a year.

Also, since you may not pay yourself for a few months, you need to plan how you will cover your personal expenses. Paying yourself before the business becomes profitable will only increase your operating expenses. The best approach is to set aside enough money in your personal account before opening the business.

Build Your Credit Score

Make a habit of paying your bills and credit cards on time to avoid lowering your credit score. A good credit score is essential when applying for loans. There are many reasons to get a loan, including a business venture. You can apply for a loan when you don’t have enough money to start your business or when your cash flow goes down. A good credit score will boost your chances of getting approval for different types of loans you may require for your new business.

Have An Emergency Fund

Just like you have an emergency fund for personal use, you should have one for your business too. When you have some money set aside for emergencies, it will be easier to get your business up and running after a disaster. Also, an emergency fund will allow you to take advantage of profitable opportunities as soon as they arise. Finally, you can use your fund to keep things going when the cash flow is low.

Maintain Proper Records and Pay Taxes on Time

Before you open your business, invest in the right software for recording financial transactions. Proper record keeping will keep you from losing money and it will also help in evaluating profitability. Also, familiarise yourself with taxation laws to ensure taxes are submitted on time.

Proper financial planning will boost your chances of survival in the short and long term. If you are having a hard time figuring out how to manage your finances, consider hiring a financial advisor.

California-based surfer Joseph Abrantes didn’t like his roof rack’s straps messing up the wax job on his board, nor did he enjoy hearing them flap and buzz in the breeze while on the highway. His solution was to create his own product, the strapless WaveRaxx system. It’s presently on Kickstarter.

WaveRaxx consists of four padded polymer hooks, two of which slide into each of the two crossbars on third-party racks incorporating the T-Track Channel system. Compatible rack brands include TracRac, Thule, Yakima and Rhino.

On each crossbar, the user proceeds to slide the hooks up against either side of the surfboard, which itself doesn’t actually touch the crossbars. According to Abrantes, this feature should help protect the board from dents and cracks caused by being pressed down against those bars.

Using built-in stainless steel T-bolts, the hooks are then hand-tightened down, securing the surfboard in place – because the board is wider in the middle, between the crossbars, it shouldn’t be able to move backward or forward when braking or accelerating. The whole board-mounting process is said to take around 30 seconds.

Security-conscious buyers can also opt for a system in which the hooks incorporate key locks, keeping them from being loosened and released from the board when the vehicle is left unattended.

If you’re interested in getting a WaveRaxx system, a pledge of US$135 is required for a standard setup, with $190 needed for a locking version – the planned retail prices are $160 and $220, respectively. Assuming it reaches production, the product should ship in October. It’s demonstrated in the video below.

Potential backers might also want to check out the strapless LockRacksystem, although it’s more expensive, and protrudes higher from top of the vehicle.

WaveRaxx gives surfboard racks the strapless treatment [New Atlas]

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has teamed up with Starbucks on a coffee house featuring origami-like ceilings and trails of cherry blossoms, designed to offer customers a more theatrical experience.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo is one of only five in the world, along with branches in Seattle, Shanghai, Milan and New York.

Unlike the brand’s typical coffee shops, these large-scale roasteries offer a premium experience, with opportunities to sample rare caffeinated beverages.

The Tokyo roastery, located in Nakameguro, is intended to reference to Japan’s landscape and traditional crafts.

Kengo Kuma designed the four-storey building, which has timber fins jutting out from its facade to accommodate balcony terrraces. Liz Muller, chief design officer at Starbucks, was responsible for the interior fit-out.

A huge copper coffee-bean cask anchors the entrance of the venue, extending upwards through the building’s four floors.

Measuring 16 metres high, the cylindrical volume has a mottled surface created by in a process called tsuchime, which sees a small hammer create a pattern of indentations.

Copper was also used to create hundreds of cherry blossom flowers, mimicking those that appear along the nearby Meguro river every spring.

These dangle directly in front of the cask on fine pieces of string, so they appear to be floating in midair.

The layout of the ground floor is open-plan, to “draw customers into an immersive experience”. As well as areas filled with dining tables and chairs, there is also a small retail area selling Starbucks merchandise and a bakery serving Italian treats like focaccia and cornetti.

The floors and walls of the space are slate grey, while the ceiling is lined with triangular blocks of striped wood, intended to recall the appearance of origami-folded paper.

This aesthetic continues upstairs. The first floor is is dedicated to Japanese teas, while the second floor plays host to a cocktail bar, Arriviamo, which serves alcohol-infused tipples like espresso martinis.

The fourth floor contains a sizeable lounge named Amu – the Japanese term for “knit together” – which can be used for community events and talks. Eventually this level will be used as a training space for those looking to enter coffee-related professions.

The first Starbucks Reserve Roastery opened in Seattle in 2014, just a few blocks away from the first ever Starbucks coffee shop. The last to open was the New York outpost, located in the Meatpacking District, which boasts a network of copper pipes that transport coffee beans between rooms.

Kuma was an obvious choice for the first branch in Japan, as the architect has previously worked with the brand on other Starbucks branches.

Last year the architect stacked up 29 recycled shipping containers to form a drive-through Starbucks in Taiwan and also created a branch beside a Shinto shrine in Dazaifu.

Kengo Kuma designs building for Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Tokyo [Dezeen]

 

While there are already electronic devices that detect toxic gases, they can be expensive, and require training to properly use. Soon, though, there could be a cheap and simple alternative – threads woven into washable clothing, that change color when nasty gases are present.

Led by Prof. Sameer Sonkusale, a team at Massachusetts’ Tufts University infused regular pieces of thread with three types of dye: MnTPP, bromothymol blue, and methyl red. The first two change color when exposed to ammonia gas, while the third reacts to hydrogen chloride.

Each thread was first dipped in one of the dyes, after which it was treated with acetic acid – the latter step caused the fiber to swell, and made its surface coarser, which may have allowed for better binding of the dye to the thread. In a final step, an organic polymer known as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) was applied to the thread – this created a flexible and water-repellent yet gas-permeable seal around the dyed fiber.

When subsequently tested, the treated threads responded to gas concentrations as low as 50 parts per million, by reliably and consistently changing color. This even proved to be the case underwater, where the fibers were able to detect dissolved ammonia. In fact, even after repeated washings, the PDMS coating kept the dye from leaching out of the thread, which continued to function as a gas sensor.

It is hoped that once the technology is developed further – utilizing more dyes, capable of detecting a wider range of gases – it could be incorporated into clothing used in fields such as oil and gas exploration, public health, the military, or rescue operations.

A paper on the research was published this Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Color-changing threads could find use in gas-detecting clothing [New Atlas]

Whether you are interested in a side hustle or a full-time career, starting an online English tutoring business can give you the flexibility you desire. If you have an English degree or simply enjoy teaching the language, you can find success with this venture. Consider the following tips as you set up and start your tutoring business.

Basic Tutoring Requirements

Although you do not need a degree in English to start a tutoring business, it can help to have one. Many students prefer to learn from people who have specific credentials, such as an English degree or certificate. Whether you have a degree or not, you must excel in English and be able to teach it to others. In addition, having the right attitude and personality are important for building a successful tutoring business.

You may want to take the Myers-Briggs personality test to see if you are the right fit to become a tutor. English tutors need patience and perseverance as they handle difficult students. They must also be flexible and willing to change direction if necessary. Some students process information in various ways, so traditional teaching methods may not work for them. A good tutor can adjust their style and methods to help people.

Online Demand for Tutors

According to Maryville University, the demand for educators who are able to teach online is increasing, and average salaries for English majors are also on the rise by 15 percent. English is considered one of the most common and widely used languages around the world, so more people are interested in learning it. Moreover, globalization and the internet have made it easier than ever to connect tutors with students online.

There is both national and international demand for online English tutors. In the United States, students of all ages and in all grade levels often need help with their English classes. From elementary school kids struggling to learn how to read to college students who cannot get through their required literature classes, there are many opportunities for tutors. If you want to be successful, it is a good idea to pinpoint an age group you teach best and focus on them.

On the international level, you can find both children and adults who need help. Many kids in other countries learn English as a foreign language in school and need help. Adults may need to study English for work or college degrees. According to the Harvard Business Review, one out of four people speak English around the world, so more and more adults are learning the language. Again, it is helpful to pick an age group and country where you can excel as a tutor.

Technology Requirements

A reliable internet connection and computer are the most important things you need to have a successful online English tutoring business. Imagine teaching a class and losing your connection: Your students will be upset and may quit or ask for a refund. In addition to good internet, you need a quiet place to teach that will not be interrupted by others or loud noises. Most people teach at home because they can control the environment or rent a space outside the house that is peaceful.

Although there are specific software programs designed to help connect tutors and students, you may not need to invest in fancy tools to start your business. If you are bootstrapping or on a limited budget, then consider using Skype video communication tools to host your classes.

There are also many apps that can help you message students and stay in touch with them between classes. However, WhatsApp secure messaging tends to be the most popular among international students and teachers. It is available for both smartphones and computers.

Finding Students

Once you have figured out who you want to teach and how you will do it, the next step is finding students. You can sign up with different companies that offer tutoring services and take a cut of your pay, or you can start your own small business. If you want to focus on local students, reach out to schools and colleges in your area and ask if you can advertise your services. Connect with other teachers and professors and offer to help.

If you want to teach students overseas, look for forums and online boards that have people who want to learn English. Search social media and websites for potential students. You can also advertise your services online and wait for people to find you. Another option is to find other tutors and ask them for overflow work.

Becoming an online tutor can be a simple and straightforward process. The most important thing is to have the desire and ability to teach others English. You can build a successful online English tutoring business.

Airbnb likes to drum up publicity with competitions offering off-the-wall (or even on-the-wall) experiences, like a night spent in BIG’s Lego House, for example. Its latest competition offers one winner and their guest a night in Paris’ famous Musée du Louvre, complete with private tour.

Though the Louvre originally opened as a museum during the French Revolution, back in 1793, its iconic main glass pyramid wasn’t added until 1989 and this year marks the 30th anniversary of its completion.

Competition entrants are required to answer why they’d be the Mona Lisa’s perfect guest. The winner, plus one guest, will be taken on a private tour around the museum by an art historian after it closes to the general public.

This will be followed by a drink in a lounge set up next to the Mona Lisa, then some food on a temporary dining area near the Venus de Milo, before finishing off with some music in Napoleon III’s former apartment. Once the evening concludes, the winner and their guest will spend a night in a miniature version of the Louvre’s pyramid, which will be installed within the main pyramid.

“We are happy to offer this unique and special experience for two people to stay in the museum overnight, in a bespoke pyramid shaped bedroom,” says Anne-Laure Béatrix, Deputy Managing Director of the Louvre. “We know that many people would love the opportunity to wander alone at night through the Louvre and we want this to be a magical and unforgettable experience. With Airbnb’s partnership, we hope to encourage more people to discover how truly accessible and inspiring the wonders of art can be.”

If you’d like to try your luck, more details are available on Airbnb’s website.

Competition offers chance to spend a night in the Louvre [New Atlas]

The Royal Academy of Arts has unveiled a series of installations that show how virtualand augmented reality technologies can change the experience of buildings and spaces.

The four installations were created by architect Gilles Retsin, 3D-scanning studio ScanLAB, designer Keiichi Matsuda and design studio Soft Bodies.

Together they form the third and final instalment of Invisible Landscapes, a project by RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado exploring how digital technologies are changing the world.

“The last act of Invisible Landscapes explores how the virtual might transform the physical space and vice versa,” the curator explained.

“Four works, including two new commissions, explore how virtual, augmented and mixed reality are blurring the boundaries between the physical and the virtual, and questioning what is real and what is fictional, questioning how we might interact with and look at the world around us, both now and in the near future.”

Real Virtuality was a new commission from Bartlett School of Architecture tutor Gilles Retsin, whose previous works include a robot-built chair made using a 3D printer, and prototypes for a 3D-printed plastic house.

The London-based architect combined plywood with digital technology and augmented reality construction techniques, to design and install an interlocking wooden frame inside the Royal Academy’s architecture gallery.

Each building block was made from nine- by 12-millimetre plywood sheets, turned into a kit of parts using a CNC milling machine.

These modular forms were then assembled by people wearing Microsoft HoloLens headsets, which allowed for real-time adaptions as the installation was being built.

The HoloLens overlaid a digital model of the design onto the gallery space as the construction team looked at the room, indicating where each plywood module could fit.

The entire structure was held together in tension, with a few lateral steel rods in repeating points between the plywood elements.

The piece by 3D scanning company ScanLAB Projects, Post-Lenticular Landscapes, comprised a diorama viewable through a holographic lens.

The team took terrestrial laser 3D scanning equipment to Yosemite National Park in the US to produce a hologram of the landscape, recreating the 1870s expeditions of pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

London designer Keiichi Matsuda presented his dystopian 360-degree short film Merger, which imagines how augmented reality and an obsession with productivity could merge to create a nightmarish new workplace.

Weightless Bricks is a new commission from design studio Soft Bodies. The mixed-reality experience allows participants wearing a virtual-reality headset to explore a digital landscape whilst interacting with specially made physical objects in a hybrid world.

AR and VR experiences are increasingly being used by museums to give visitors new way to encounter their exhibits.

In the Netherlands, visitors to the Mauritshuis museum can use their smartphones to simulate stepping inside the world of the painting, while performance artist Marina Abramovi? created a virtual avatar for a mixed-reality performance art piece at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

Invisible Landscapes installations explore how virtual reality will change architecture [Dezeen]