Americans throw out about 14.4 billion coffee cups per year. Many of these cups are lined with a nonbiodegradable petrochemical. Accordingly, a company called Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has designed a cup with a corn-based liner:
Converting to the corn-based cup means Green Mountain will consume a quarter million pounds less of nonrenewable petrochemical material each year.All well and good, but it's rather unwise to promote the use of paper cups whether they're lined with corn or not.
On the other hand, suppose those cups could be made out of stone?
ViaStone is a unique printing paper that is made with natural stone, inorganic mineral powder and trace amounts of non-toxic resins. It is designed to be used exclusively with inkjet printers. The production of Viastone is tree-free and does not require water or toxic agents. It is also biodegradable.This weird "paper" comes from limestone, and there’s a limit to how much of that we’d want to extract at this late date. But perhaps we could coax cyanobacteria into making limestone specially for paper products.
Going back to the cup lining for a moment, I sometimes get a bit sick of hearing about all the unnecessary things that corn – a food crop, you’ll recall - is going to replace. That’s why I’m pleased to learn about vernonia, or ironweed:
Studies show that use of vernonia-derived oils has the potential to significantly offset petroleum use and related fossil-fuel emissions. In 1992, the United States consumed roughly 227 kilograms of petroleum per person to produce plastics and industrial petrochemicals; according to scientists, replacing those feedstock with vernonia oil could have reduced emissions by up to 73 million kilograms annually. In 2004, the U.S. industrial sector consumed about 5.1 million barrels of oil per day, or 23 percent of the nation’s total. The naturally epoxidized vernonia oil is also being considered for pharmaceutical uses, such as alleviating psoriasis.Treehugger reports on a cell-phone recycler based in Michigan:
Fifteen years ago, while cell phones were still a luxury item, Michigan entrepreneur Charles Newman recognized a business opportunity in those old phones. His company, Recellular, now controls more than half of the US market for used cell phones, and in addition to keeping 75,000 phones a week out of landfills, the company provides affordable wireless communications to residents of developing countries around the world.A company called Nanosolar has come up with an interesting way to make a photovoltaic film:
Nanosolar prints CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenium) onto a thin polymer using machines that look like printing presses. There is no costly silicon involved in the process, and, ultimately, a solar cell from Nanosolar will cost about one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of a standard silicon solar panel.A judge has forbidden a commercial lumber company to clearcut within Giant Sequoia National Monument. Somewhat more surprisingly, a different judge has forbidden the construction of a new coal plant in Texas:
Plans for a huge increase in Texas' use of coal to meet rising power demands suffered a major setback Wednesday when two state administrative law judges sided with environmentalists against a permit for a new TXU plant near Waco.And yet another judge ruled that the EPA can’t approve pesticides without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ruling in favor of nine environmental groups, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenor declared that the Bush administration had "plainly violated" the Endangered Species Act.In Utah, zoning regulations may change to reflect low-water landscaping techniques. And in California, a dam was destroyed so that marshlands could be reflooded for the first time in over a century:
Environmentalists who worked for 30 years to restore the massive Bolsa Chica area cheered and sipped champagne as the salty water poured into the fragile ecosystem that had been tapped as an oil field for decades....Officials said it would take at least six hours for the ocean water to fill the 387-acre basin. The area had been separated from the ocean for 107 years.Meanwhile, in Asia, there’s talk of placing stringent new regulations on shrimp farms to protect mangrove swamps:
The eight state and federal agencies involved in the project call it the largest and most ambitious restoration of coastal wetlands in the history of California, where 95 percent of saltwater marshes have been given over to development.
The key victims of Asia's shrimp farms are its mangrove forests, the stilt-like luxuriant root systems of which form a natural protective barrier against destructive waves, prompting many countries to plant them after the 2004 tsunami.It turns out that bees can estimate time intervals:
In a finding that broadens our understanding of time perception in the animal kingdom, researchers have discovered that an insect pollinator, the bumble bee, can estimate the duration of time intervals. Although many insects show daily and annual rhythms of behavior, the more sophisticated ability to estimate the duration of shorter time intervals had previously been known only in humans and other vertebrates.Speaking of bees, here’s an odd example of biomimesis:
An ingenious new mathematical procedure based on the behaviour of honey bees is delivering sweet results for industry. Researchers at Cardiff University's Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC) developed the procedure, or algorithm, after observing the "waggle dance" of bees foraging for nectar. The algorithm enables companies to maximise results by changing basic elements of their processes.You’ll be glad to know that this algorithm has already improved the design of springs.
A satellite tracking device enabled researchers to follow a whale that had become entangled in a gillnet:
The satellite telemetry tag was attached Sunday and allowed the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network team, led by mammal disentanglement expert Ed Lyman, to return to Juneau for rest. The team will relaunch later this week to find the 35-foot whale and attempt to free it completely from the 100 feet of fishing net.From my standpoint, the most inspiring aspect of this story is that there’s such a thing as a "mammal disentanglement expert." I wonder if he makes house calls?
Parks do, it seems. Via Inhabitat, here’s “a mobile trailer that unfolds into an elevated park replete with a fire circle and wildflowers”:
Once you’re weary of the bucolic splendor of the portable park, you can kick up your heels (carefully!) in this miniature Moscow:
If you’re looking for a more claustrophobic form of miniaturism, you’ll want to contemplate these odd snowglobe scenes:
I recommend rounding off this tour of tiny worlds with a visit to the Prato Haggadah.
(The image at the top is from Animals Found On the Underground.)