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Inspiring: Healing Our Earth News Stories

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Turning Brownfields to Blooming Meadows, With the Help of Fungi
2024-06-27, Yale Environment 360
Posted: 2024-07-21 19:10:33
https://e360.yale.edu/features/danielle-stevenson-interview

Danielle Stevenson ... has been pioneering a nature-based technique for restoring contaminated land, using fungi and native plants to break down toxins like petroleum, plastics, and pesticides into less toxic chemicals. The usual way of dealing with tainted soil is to dig it up and cart it off to distant landfills. In a recent pilot project funded by the city of Los Angeles, Stevenson ... working with a team of UC Riverside students and other volunteers, significantly reduced petrochemical pollutants and heavy metals at an abandoned railyard and other industrial sites in Los Angeles. Stevenson says she believes her bioremediation methods can be scaled up to clean polluted landscapes worldwide. "Decomposer fungi can degrade petrochemicals the same way they would break down a dead tree," [said Stevenson]. "And in doing so, they reduce the toxicity of these petrochemicals and create soil that no longer has these contaminants or has much reduced concentrations of it. They can also eat plastic and other things made out of oil. People who live in a place impacted by pollution need to have a say in how their neighborhood is being cleaned up. We need to empower them with the tools to do this. That’s why along with doing these studies and pilot projects, I’ve been running workforce development programs. Potentially, they could bring economic opportunities and benefits to the community in addition to cleaning up the contaminated site."

Note: Explore more positive stories like this about healing the Earth.


To Keep Clean Drinking Water Flowing to Paris, Farmers Are Going Organic
2024-06-25, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:14:45
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/paris-organic-farming-clean-water-supply/

About 100 miles southeast of Paris ... a charming stone aqueduct cuts across the green fields. “That’s the Aqueduct of the Vanne,” says [farmer] Zoltan Kahn. The Vanne, which supplies a fifth of Paris’s tap water, is fed by the water sources in these parts. The region is rich in biodiversity and has been a key drinking water catchment area for centuries. Since 2020, Eau de Paris, the city’s public water service, has been supporting farmers near its watersheds ... to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers on their crops. In other words, to go organic. When Kahn was approached by Eau de Paris with support to go fully organic, he jumped at the opportunity. In exchange for switching to organic, he would receive a so-called “Payment for Environmental Services” for each hectare of his farmland. As part of the €48 million ($51.8 million) project, Eau de Paris and the Seine-Normandy Water Agency, a public institution fighting water pollution in the region, are supporting 115 farmers based in watersheds that supply the city to either reduce their use of chemicals or go fully organic (as 58 percent of the farmers have). Already €32 million of that funding has been granted, according to Anne-Sophie Leclere, deputy director general of Eau de Paris. “It’s better for us to have cleaner, purer watersheds,” says Leclere. “This will save Paris from having to pay much more to process the water once it arrives in the city.”

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


How Philadelphia Is Giving Fallen Trees New Life
2024-06-24, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-07-02 11:12:38
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/philadelphia-reforestation-hub-carbon-smart...

Each year, US cities lose an estimated 36 million trees to development, disease and old age, many of which ultimately end up in landfills. Losing these urban trees — known to help cool their neighborhoods, lower carbon emissions and improve mental health, among other benefits — costs an estimated $96 million annually. In Philadelphia, a partnership is giving the City of Brotherly Love’s fallen trees new life. Philadelphia Parks & Rec joined forces with Cambium Carbon, a Washington, D.C.-based startup that repurposes waste wood, and PowerCorpsPHL, a local nonprofit that creates job opportunities for unemployed and under-employed 18- to 30-year-olds, to launch the Reforestation Hub. Rather than sending trees straight to the landfill or the city’s organic recycling center to simply become mulch or wood chips, the Reforestation Hub (which is co-located in the city’s organic recycling center) will salvage as many trees as it can. As many as possible will be turned into Cambium’s Carbon Smart Wood, which stores 5.23 pounds of carbon in each board foot. Fifteen percent of sales that come out of the hub will be donated to Tree Philly at the end of each year to support tree planting and maintenance across the city. While the hub formally launched only recently, in the year and a half that it’s taken to get the infrastructure in place, it has already diverted 542 logs to create 28,000 board feet of Carbon Smart Wood.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth and technology for good.


Planetary health diet cuts early death risk, new study shows
2024-06-10, Washington Post
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:20:29
https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2024/06/10/planetary-diet-lower-morta...

Can you eat a diet that’s good for your health and good for the planet? A new study suggests that it’s possible. It found that people who ate mostly minimally processed plant foods such as nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, along with modest amounts of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, had lower rates of premature death from heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. At the same time, their diets had a smaller environmental footprint because they consisted of foods that were grown using relatively less land and water and that were produced with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The study ... was inspired by a landmark 2019 report from the EAT-Lancet Commission, which designed a “Planetary Health Diet” capable of sustaining 10 billion people and the planet by 2050. The planetary health diet, in broad strokes, encourages people to eat more plants and whole foods alongside small portions of meat and dairy. People whose eating habits most closely adhered to the planetary health diet were 30 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to people who ate the lowest amounts of foods that form the basis of the planetary health diet. Planetary health eaters had a 10 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, a 14 percent lower likelihood of dying from cardiovascular diseases, a 47 percent reduction in the risk of dying from lung disease, and a 28 percent lower likelihood of dying of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Note: Explore more positive stories on healing our bodies and healing the Earth.


Denmark’s Radical Plan for a Plant-Based Future
2024-06-17, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-06-24 22:18:51
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/denmark-radical-plan-plant-based-future/

Trine Krebs is sometimes called “the leek woman,” or even Miss Dry-Legume, of Denmark. The 48-year-old has for decades traveled around the country as, in her words, a “food inspirer,” proselytizing about all things vegetables. So when, in October 2023, the Danish government published the world’s first ever national action plan for shifting towards plant-based diets, Krebs was ecstatic. The Danish government has three main goals: to increase demand for plant-based foods, to develop supply for plant-based foods, and to improve how all the different stakeholders — from scientists to farmers and chefs, food sociologists, and nutrition experts — in this nascent domestic industry are working together. Danish authorities see reducing meat and dairy consumption as key to reaching the Nordic state’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 70 percent before 2030, when compared to 1990. The climate think tank Concito estimates that more than half of Denmark’s land is used for farming and that agriculture accounts for about a third of its carbon emissions. Yet a published in 2021 found that the emissions made by producing plant-based foods are roughly half the amount incurred by meat production. Denmark believes ... that the necessary shift toward plant-based eating also offers a massive economic opportunity. If the country were to gain a three percent share of the global plant-based food market, it could create up to 27,000 jobs.

Note: Explore more positive stories on healing our bodies and healing the Earth.


The all-female patrol guarding Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest
2024-05-07, BBC News
Posted: 2024-06-11 12:30:44
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240503-the-indigenous-women-fighting-min...

It is the break of dawn in the Serena community, in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Elsa Cerda, a 43-year-old indigenous Kichwa woman, brews guayusa leaves – a native plant from the rainforest – in a pot. It marks the start of the Guayusa Upina, a ritual performed by Amazonian indigenous peoples before beginning their daily activities. This tradition is more than a routine; it's a spiritual connection to their ancestral roots. As the first rays of light begin to filter through the tree canopy, a diverse assembly of 35 women, ranging from 23 to 85 years old, arrives one by one at the ceremony. The group goes by the name of "Yuturi Warmi". Their role as Amazonian guardians involves safeguarding the territory from pollution and preserving the land and rivers from activities that jeopardise biodiversity – such as deforestation and mining operations. The women undergo regular training sessions, with younger women teaching older members how to operate these phone cameras and drones. Each patrol involves a rotation of members, particularly the younger ones, who primarily patrol the land, ensuring continued presence and surveillance. The women do not carry any weapons, relying instead on their collective presence to act as a deterrent. In the event of witnessing illegal mining activities, the women prioritise non-violent measures such as contacting the authorities and gathering evidence.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this about healing the Earth.


How Electric Harps Are Protecting Honey Bees
2024-05-23, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-06-11 12:28:23
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/electric-harps-protect-honey-bees-from-asia...

Michel Costa had become a frustrated veteran of an obscure yet devastating war in Europe. The enemy: invasive Asian hornets, which had been massacring his honey bees. When Costa, a retiree and avid beekeeper, discovered a new weapon with the potential to change the course of the entire war, he was intrigued. Several companies had begun selling so-called “electric harps,” which they claimed could kill the hornets in droves by electrocuting them as they flew through. Although the harps take different forms, each one is made of some sort of large frame, which is then “strung” with conductive metal wires. These are then connected to a source of electricity, often solar panels, so that the wires conduct simultaneously positive and negative charges. When a hornet flies through, its wings touch the wires on either side, completing a circuit, and thereby delivering a fatal current of electricity. Beekeepers then place the harps around their hives in positions along the hornets’ frequent flight paths. The harps can reduce predation pressure by 89 percent — enough to give hives the chance to replenish their stores. In one study only 56 percent of unprotected hives survived through winter, while 78 percent of those protected by harps did. Harps are also cheaper than other methods for beekeepers to install and operate. Beekeepers can buy them in complete kits that cost around $300 ... as Costa did. When combined with solar panels, maintenance costs are minimal.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this about healing the Earth.


Future Space Travel Might Require Mushrooms
2021-08-03, Scientific American
Posted: 2024-05-26 20:24:06
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/space-travels-most-surprising-futu...

The list of mycologists whose names are known beyond their fungal field is short, and at its apex is Paul Stamets. In a new “astromycological” venture launched in conjunction with NASA, Stamets and various research teams are studying how fungi can be leveraged to build extraterrestrial habitats and perhaps someday even terraform planets. [Stamets:] Fungi were the first organisms that came to land, munching rocks, and fungi gave birth to animals about 650 million years ago. We’re descendants of the descendants of these fungal networks. [Plants that support terraforming] need minerals, and pairing fungi up with the plants and debris from humans [causes them to] decompose into a form that then creates rich soils that could help generate the foods that astronauts need. We grow lots of reishi mycelium. We grow reishi blocks. We wanted to crush these blocks in order to turn them into soil. This great engineer built us a hydraulic stainless steel press, and I had like 2,000 psi [pounds per square inch] in this press, and we gave it my reishi blocks, and it bent the stainless steel. Trying to compress it, it actually broke the machine. This thing will crush rocks all day long and could not crush mycelium. They’re also good at retaining heat, so their insulation properties are phenomenal. Moreover, these could become batteries. You can have solar panels on a structure on Mars made of mycelium. (The entire mycelium is about 85 percent carbon, and studies have shown that porous carbon can be an excellent capacitor.) You could then pregrow these and arrange them on a form such that they become nanobatteries. And they could then not only insulate you from the cold on the Martian or asteroid surface, but the house itself becomes a giant battery for power because they’re so rich in carbon fibers.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Watch these hungry waxworms eat through plastic and digest it too
2024-04-24, BBC News
Posted: 2024-05-13 18:36:24
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240419-the-worms-that-eat-through-plastic

At first glance there's nothing particularly remarkable about waxworms. The larval form of wax moths, these pale wriggling grubs feed on the wax that bees use to make their honeycomb. For beekeepers, the pests are something to swiftly get rid of without a second thought. But in 2017 molecular biologist Federica Bertocchini ... stumbled on a potentially game-changing discovery about these creatures. Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, threw some of the waxworms in a plastic bag after cleaning her hive, and left them alone. A short time later, she noticed the worms had started producing small holes in the plastic, which begun degrading as soon as it touched the worms' mouths. The worms were doing something that we as humans find remarkably difficult to do: break down plastic. Not only that, but the worms appeared to be digesting the plastic as though it was food. Bertocchini and her fellow researchers began collecting the liquid excreted from the worms' mouths. They found this "saliva" contained two critical enzymes, Ceres and Demeter – named after the Roman and Greek goddesses of agriculture, respectively – which were able to oxidise the polyethylene in the plastic, essentially breaking down that material on contact. Bertocchini is now chief technology officer at bioresearch startup Plasticentropy France, working with a team to study the viability of scaling up these enzymes for widespread use in degrading plastic.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


Plastic-eating bacteria can help waste self-destruct
2024-04-30, BBC News
Posted: 2024-05-13 18:34:50
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-68927816

Scientists have developed a "self-digesting plastic", which, they say, could help reduce pollution. Polyurethane is used in everything from phone cases to trainers, but is tricky to recycle and mainly ends up in landfill. However, researchers have come up with a sci-fi like solution. By incorporating spores of plastic-eating bacteria they've developed a plastic that can self-destruct. The spores remain dormant during the useful lifetime of the plastic, but spring back to life and start to digest the product when exposed to nutrients in compost. There's hope "we can mitigate plastic pollution in nature", said researcher Han Sol Kim, of the University of California San Diego, La Jolla. And there might be an added advantage in that the spores increase the toughness of the plastic. "Our process makes the materials more rugged, so it extends its useful lifetime," said co-researcher, Jon Pokorski. "And then, when it's done, we're able to eliminate it from the environment, regardless of how it's disposed." The plastic is currently being worked on at the laboratory bench but could be in the real world within a few years, with the help of a manufacturer, he added. The type of bacteria added to the plastic is Bacillus subtilis, widely used as a food additive and a probiotic. Crucially, the bacteria has to be genetically engineered to be able to withstand the very high temperatures needed to make plastic.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


Toward truly compostable plastic
2024-02-27, Knowable Magazine
Posted: 2024-05-13 18:32:38
https://knowablemagazine.org/content/article/technology/2024/compostable-plas...

Humans have created 8 billion metric tons of plastic. More than half the plastic ever produced —some 5 billion metric tons — lies smeared across the surface of the Earth. Chemists were creating “synthetic” plastics decades before the oil industry took off, from, among other materials, waste oat husks and vegetable oil. One of the tacks toward more sustainable plastics is to turn back to such biological sources. The ideal materials are not just biodegradable but also compostable — a narrower category that indicates the material can break down into organic components that are harmless to plants and animals. Compostability, unfortunately, is not easily achieved. The natural world already supplies promising polymers that are all compostable, says David Kaplan, a biomedical engineer at Tufts University. [Physicist Eleftheria] Roumeli, for example, has mined the promise of algal cells. They’re small, and therefore easily manipulable; they contain large amounts of proteins, which are biological polymers, alongside other useful materials. She and her students took powdered algae and passed it through a hot presser. After several trials ... they found they could produce a material that was stronger than many commodity plastics. The material was also recyclable: It could be ground back to powder and pressed again. If it were to be carelessly tossed into the dirt, the material would break apart at the same rate as a banana peel.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


German hospitals serve planetary health diet
2024-03-28, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2024-04-01 14:32:41
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/mar/28/planetary-health-diet-mea...

Patrick Burrichter did not think about saving lives or protecting the planet when he trained as a chef. But 25 years later he has focused his culinary skills on doing exactly that. On the outskirts of Berlin, Burrichter and his team cook for a dozen hospitals that offer patients a “planetary health” diet – one that is rich in plants and light in animals. Compared with the typical diet in Germany, known for its bratwurst sausage and doner kebab, the 13,000 meals they rustle up each day are better for the health of people and the planet. In Burrichter’s kitchen, the steaming vats of coconut milk dal and semolina dumpling stew need to be more than just cheap and healthy – they must taste so good that people ditch dietary habits built up over decades. The biggest challenge, says Burrichter, is replacing the meat in a traditional dish. Moderate amounts of meat can form part of a healthy diet, providing protein and key nutrients, but the average German eats twice as much as doctors advise. Patients on the wards of Waldfriede praise the choice of meals on offer. Martina Hermann, 75, says she has been inspired to cook more vegetables when she gets home. Followers of the planetary health diet need not abandon animal products altogether. The guidelines, which were proposed by 37 experts from the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019, translate to eating meat once a week and fish twice a week, along with more wholegrains, nuts and legumes.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Jane Goodall Champions Pragmatism For Progress In National Geographic Documentary ‘Jane Goodall: The Hope’
2020-04-30, Forbes
Posted: 2024-03-11 23:03:29
https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2020/04/30/jane-goodall-champions...

In 1986, [Dr. Jane Goodall] attended a conference in Chicago with researchers studying chimps in six areas of Africa, and the reports of environmental devastation shocked Goodall. After listening to the reports at the conference, Goodall felt obligated to speak. Her activism evolved quickly, from chimps, to their habitat to human welfare, and how animal rights and the future of the planet are inherently interconnected. Some of her decisions have been deemed controversial: her friendship with for US Secretary of State James Baker, her work with Conoco ... oil company to build a chimpanzee sanctuary, hard conversations with the National Institutes of Health regarding their medical research and testing practices on chimpanzees and visiting their labs. "I lost a lot of friends because of going into the labs, sitting down and talking to the people, organizing a conference to bring in the lab people, the scientists and also the animal welfare people ..."There were a lot of animal rights people who refused to speak to me — they said, 'Wow can you sit down with these evil people and have a cup of tea with them?' I was totally and completely flabbergasted. If you don’t talk to people, how can expect them to change?” When speaking to the NIH, “I didn’t stand there and accuse them of being cruel monsters. I showed slides and some film of the Gombe chimpanzees and talked about their lives, and then showed some slides of the chimps in the small cages and said, ‘You know, it’s like putting a person in a prison like that,’” said Goodall. “Many of the scientists said, ‘We really have never thought about this in this way’ a lot of them were actually crying." She stands by all of it because it produces results. It took decades, but the NIH phased out medical testing and research on chimpanzees. Conoco built the chimpanzee sanctuary, the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, saving all of the starving chimpanzees in the Brazzaville Zoo in the Republic of Congo.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The 3D-Printed Affordable Housing of the Future Will Be Recyclable
2024-01-26, Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: 2024-02-19 21:50:04
https://reasonstobecheerful.world/future-affordable-housing-3d-printed-recycl...

When you imagine a 3D-printed home, you probably picture a boxy concrete structure. As 3D printing’s popularity has grown in the construction industry — thanks to its efficiency when it comes to time, energy and cost — carbon-intensive concrete has become the go-to building material. But a project in Maine has set its sights on something different: a neighborhood of 600-square-foot, 3D-printed, bio-based houses crafted from materials like wood fibers and bioresins. The aim: a complex of 100-percent recyclable buildings that will provide homes to those experiencing houselessness. In late 2022, an initiative between the University of Maine and local nonprofit Penquis unveiled its prototype — BioHome3D, the first 100-percent recyclable house. Now, the pioneering project is working toward completing its first livable housing complex. It will be fully bio-based, meaning all materials will be derived from living organisms such as plants and other renewable agricultural, marine and forestry materials. As the materials are all 100-percent recyclable, so become the buildings. The materials are also all renewable. And thanks to its natural composition, the home acts as a carbon sink, sequestering 46 tons of carbon dioxide per 600-square-foot unit. The materials for this project will mainly come from wood left over by local mills. “The wood fiber material that’s used in the mix is essentially waste wood here in Maine,” says Jason Bird, director of housing development for Penquis.

Note: Don't miss pictures of beautiful homes built by this process at the link above. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Scientists invent dirt-fuelled power source that ‘lasts forever’
2024-01-16, The Independent (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2024-01-29 13:48:42
https://www.independent.co.uk/tech/battery-fuel-cell-forever-power-b2479535.html

Scientists have developed a new type of fuel cell that can provide endless power through electricity harvested from dirt. A team from Northwestern University in the US say the book-sized unit could be used to power sensors used in farming, as well as remote devices in the Internet of Things (IoT). The technology works by generating electricity from naturally-occurring bacteria within the soil, offering a sustainable and renewable alternative to toxic and flammable batteries. “These microbes are ubiquitous; they already live in soil everywhere,” said George Wells ... at Northwestern University. “We can use very simple engineered systems to capture their electricity. We’re not going to power entire cities with this energy. But we can capture minute amounts of energy to fuel practical, low-power applications.” The soil-based microbial fuel cell (MFC) is based on a 113-year-old technology first developed by British botanist Michael Cressé Potter, who was the first person to successfully generate electricity from microorganisms. It took until the 21st century for the first commercial applications to be proposed, with Foster’s Brewing using a prototype to convert the yeast in brewery wastewater into electricity. The latest fuel cell was tested in wet and dry conditions to power sensors measuring soil moisture and detecting touch, outlasting the power of similar technologies by 120 per cent.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Batteries of the future: How cotton and seawater might power our devices
2023-11-08, BBC News
Posted: 2023-12-27 18:45:03
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20231108-batteries-of-the-future-how-cotto...

The power's out. But on a street in India, there's a cash machine still happily dispensing banknotes. Thanks, in part, to burnt cotton. For this cash machine has a backup battery inside it – a battery that contains carbon from carefully combusted cotton. "The exact process is secret," says Inketsu Okina, chief intelligence officer at PJP Eye, the Japanese firm that made the battery. "The temperature is secret and atmosphere is secret. Pressure is secret," he continues. Okina does say that a high temperature is required, above 3,000C (5,432F). And that 1kg (2.2lbs) of cotton yields 200g (7oz) of carbon – with just 2g (0.07oz) needed for each battery cell. PJP Eye also touts the possibility of improving battery performance as well as making batteries greener. "Our carbon has a bigger surface area than graphite," says Okina, describing how the chemistry of the anode in their Cambrian single carbon battery allows for a battery that charges very quickly, up to 10 times faster than existing lithium ion batteries, he claims. The battery's cathode is made from a "base metal" oxide. Although Okina won't disclose exactly which one, these metals include copper, lead, nickel and zinc. The company claims to be working on a dual carbon electrode battery, where both electrodes are made from plant-based carbon. Other researchers are looking at using materials as diverse as corn waste and melon seed shells to generate new types of electrodes for use in batteries.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Scientists invent popcorn-based home insulation material that’s waterproof and biodegradable
2021-11-23, The Independent (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2023-12-27 18:42:27
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/popcorn-home-insulation-gottingen-...

Popcorn could soon be used to create sustainable insulation for buildings, replacing the current non-biodegradable materials. Scientists have invented a method to create sustainable building insulation boards using “granulated” popcorn with “excellent” thermal insulation properties and good protection against fire. The plant-based, environmentally friendly material is a sustainable alternative to current building insulation products that are derived from petroleum, said scientists from the University of Göttingen in Germany. About 90 per cent of the materials currently used to make insulation for buildings are made of plastics or mineral fibre, which are non-biodegradable, according to the scientists. These materials generate carbon dioxide during their manufacturing stages and are also rarely recycled when a building is torn down, contributing to pollution and making them unsustainable. Conventional insulating materials made of polystyrene also tend to damage the environment, the scientists pointed out. On the contrary, the researchers said, granulated popcorn is similar to polystyrene and just as lightweight, without having the synthetic material’s downsides. “This new process, based on that of the plastics industry, enables the cost-effective production of insulation boards at an industrial scale,” Alireza Kharazipour, head of the research group from the University of Göttingen, said in a statement.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘It’s kind of gross but we can do it’: How a community learned to go zero waste
2023-12-07, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2023-12-18 18:37:20
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/dec/07/its-kind-of-gross-but-we-...

When [city councillor] Alexandre Garcin dreamed up Zero-Waste Roubaix, it wasn’t sustainability he wanted to tackle, but the litter problem that plagued his city. Garcin sent out leaflets looking for 100 volunteers to participate in a free, year-long pilot programme that would teach them how to live waste-free. These familles zéro déchet, or zero-waste families, would receive training and attend workshops on topics such as making your own yoghurt and cleaning with homemade products, with the goal of halving their waste by the year’s end. Volunteers weren’t offered any direct financial incentives to participate – only the promise of helping solve the litter problem and protecting the environment. The project focused on creating an identity around zero-waste and assigning families quantitative waste-reduction targets – strategies that are proven to be effective in other contexts, and everyone got pretty straightforward guidelines – for example, “don’t buy more food than you can eat”. According to Garcin, it’s actually “not that difficult” to halve a household’s waste production. Composting gets you most of the way there, since organic waste makes up about a third of the average French family’s municipal waste by weight. Another third is glass and metal, a significant chunk of which can probably be kept out of the landfill through recycling, and 10% is plastic, much of which can be avoided by finding reusable alternatives to plastic grocery bags, cutlery, packaging and other single-use items.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Rich Folks Import This Building Material. A Minnesota Tribe Makes Its Own.
2023-12-04, Mother Jones
Posted: 2023-12-11 16:34:14
https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2023/12/minnesota-tribe-mdewakanton-b...

For now, it’s only a gaping hole in the ground. But when construction is complete next April, the Lower Sioux—also known as part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota—will have a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer a green experiment, the first of its kind in the United States. They will have an integrated vertical operation to grow hemp, process it into insulation called hempcrete, and then build healthy homes with it. Right now, no one in the US does all three. Once the tribe makes this low-carbon material, they can begin to address a severe shortage of housing and jobs. Recapturing a slice of sovereignty would be a win for the Lower Sioux. They lost most of their lands in the 19th century, and the territory finally allotted to them two hours south of Minneapolis consists of just 1,743 acres of poor soil. That stands in contrast to the fertile black earth of the surrounding white-owned farmlands. Nearly half of the 1,124 enrolled members of the tribe need homes. “The idea of making homes that would last and be healthy was a no-brainer,” said Robert “Deuce” Larsen, the tribal council president. Leading the national charge on an integrated hempcrete operation is no mean feat, seeing that virtually no one in the community had experience with either farming or construction before the five-person team was assembled. Hemp can grow in a variety of climates. What’s more, hemp regenerates soil, sequesters carbon, and doesn’t require fertilizers.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘You can walk around in a T-shirt’: how Norway brought heat pumps in from the cold
2023-11-23, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
Posted: 2023-12-04 14:11:01
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/nov/23/norway-heat-pumps-cold-he...

In most of Europe, fitting a heat pump is one of the most powerful actions a person can take to reduce their carbon footprint. But in Norway, where clean-yet-inefficient electrical resistance heaters have long been common, upgrading to a heat pump is often a purely financial decision. Two-thirds of households in this Nordic country of 5 million people have a heat pump, more than anywhere else in the world. For many years, Norwegians and their neighbours heated their homes with fossil fuels. But during the 1973 oil crisis, when prices shot up, the country’s political leaders made a conscious choice to promote alternatives. “Norway ensured early on that fossil-fuel heating was the most expensive option, making heat pumps cost competitive,” said Dr Jan Rosenow from the Regulatory Assistance Project, a thinktank that works to decarbonise buildings. “They did this by taxing carbon emissions from fossil heating fuels. That’s been the key to incentivise heat pump adoption.” Norway also trained up a workforce to install them. Heat pumps’ efficiency has been increased over decades, partly because of the early adopters in Nordic countries who tinkered away to the point where a modern version can deliver three to five units of heat for every unit of electricity used to power it. An efficient gas boiler, on the other hand, can only produce as much heat as the energy contained in the fuel being burned. A heat pump will have a smaller carbon footprint than a gas boiler even when plugged into an electricity grid.

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