This new solar farm combines clean energy and beehives

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Using the space around the solar panels as sites for 48 hives, the Eagle Point solar farm is using its land to save pollinators and help local agriculture.

At a solar farm surrounded by orchards near Medford, Oregon, native flowers are beginning to bloom between the solar panels, and 48 beehives sit at the edge of the field. The solar farm, called Eagle Point, is now the largest “solar apiary”–a solar energy project designed to benefit pollinators–in the country.

“For me, it comes from a place of wanting to change the culture of solar and really taking into consideration more than just the panels,” says Julianne Wooten, environmental manager for Pine Gate Renewables, the North Carolina-based solar power company that developed the site.

In 2017, the company began working on a new project to keep land productive at its solar farms, reintroducing native plants, and, in some cases, working with farmers or ranchers to plant crops or graze animals around the panels. A nonprofit called Fresh Energy helped connect the company with a local beekeeper who happened to be looking for a new home for some of his hives. (This isn’t the only smart combination of clean energy and agriculture: a solar farm in Japan is growing mushrooms under the panels.)

For pollinators, sprawling solar plants can provide space for much-needed habitat. (By the spring of 2019, when the new native plants are more established, the Eagle Point solar farm will offer 41 acres of new habitat.) For nearby farms growing crops that rely on pollinators–at a time when thousands of wild pollinators are at risk of extinction, and beekeepers are still struggling to maintain their populations of honeybees–this type of project can also play a role in supporting the food supply.

For the owner of a solar farm, seeding fields with native flowers and grasses has a higher upfront cost than at a typical installation; Pine Gate also worked with experts in restoration to ensure that they were making changes that were ecologically sound. But roughly a third of the maintenance costs of a solar farm can come from managing vegetation. Depending on the location, grass growing under panels might need to be mowed eight times a year. Shifting to natural vegetation can reduce that to one or two times a year, and should save the company money over time.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

How Two Young Entrepreneurs Are Tackling The Plastic Problem With Swimwear

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Brother-sister duo from Colgate University pitched a novel idea in 2015 to Jessica Alba, Jennifer Hyman, Neil Blumenthal, and MC Hammer, panelists at an entrepreneurship program: swimwear made out of recycled plastic bottles. They didn’t know much about the technology then to convert old, used plastic bottles into clothing, but as children who grew up on the beach, they knew plastic was becoming a problem.

Turns out, they had a good idea, which garnered them $20,000 for their first production run, and then 21-year-old Jake and 18-year-old Caroline Danehy went on to raise nearly $25,000 more on Kickstarter for their startup, Fair Harbor Clothing.

Three years later, they have a business that’s grown exponentially, they’ve worked with the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, and have branched out from their signature boardshorts to include women’s swimwear.  On average, 11 plastic bottles are repurposed in each pair of shorts.

The plastic bottles, Jake says, are sourced from mass recycling facilities worldwide.  They’re then sent to manufacturing facilities to be broken down into polyfibers that are spun into yarn, sewn into fabric, and cut and sewn into styles.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that polyester is made from plastic,” he says. “Instead of taking new plastic to convert into our fabric, we make use of recycled plastic bottles that may have been discarded.  While the process does involve one extra step, it’s not as complicated as it initially might seem.”

To sell their wares, the duo started with the basics: trunk shows. To date, they’ve done over 200 trunk shows in beach towns across the East Coast.  “We are huge advocates of our bootstrap model,” he adds.

Despite the growing education around plastic waste, particularly in our oceans, and some brands adopting similar practices, there are still companies who lag behind. “A lot of companies are stuck in their ways and haven’t looked to disrupt their normal production process.”

For Jake and Caroline, Fair Harbor is a business that embodies their childhood. The name, for instance, refers to a beach town on Fire Island, off the coast of Long Island where their family spent their summers. “It’s essentially a glorified sandbar, where no cars are allowed and everyone rides around on weathered bicycles. It’s a really small community that lives simply and inclusively.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

North Face is cutting waste by selling refurbished old coats

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To try to create more of a circular economy in the fashion industry, the outdoor gear company is launching a new line called Renewed, made up of old garments cleaned up so well that they’re like new.

If you buy a jacket from a just-launched pilot collection from The North Face, someone else might have already climbed a mountain or run a marathon in it. Called The North Face Renewed, the products are sourced from returns or defective items, cleaned and repaired to the quality of a new piece of clothing, and then sold online at a discount, as part of the company’s move toward a more circular business model.

“It just represents a really important next step in the evolution of our overall business,” says Tim Bantle, a general manager and vice president of lifestyle brands at The North Face. The company recognizes the apparel industry’s waste problem: 85% of textiles end up in a landfill. Even though the company makes products that are designed to last longer than average–items come with a lifetime guarantee, and the company offers repairs–it still had an opportunity to curb waste. Patagonia sells refurbished clothing through a similar online store.

During the new collection’s pilot phase, lasting from June through September, products will come from The North Face’s internal stock, including products that might have been returned under the company’s guarantee. A partner called The Renewal Workshop will professionally clean and restore items so they can be sold online.

Bantle argues that it especially makes sense to prolong the life of complex products like outdoor gear. “Oftentimes, when we think about designing an outerwear product, it really is more like designing a car than it is like designing a T-shirt in terms of the complexity of engineering and the kind of care that goes into the design and development of the product and testing,” he says. “When you’re building the quality of products that we are, but you’re only assuming one life for that, you’re really short-changing all of the work that you’re doing in terms of the design and development process.”

It’s already possible, of course, to find used North Face products on eBay or other resale sites. But the products in the new collection will be restored to like-new quality. The company thinks that it might begin to shift how their customers shop. “How many customers do we have today that might be full-price customers, that might actually buy Renewed product in the future instead?” says Bantle. Other customers, who might not have been able to afford the brand’s high prices in the past, might start buying the products for the first time.

Continue onto FastCompany to read the complete article.

Sunrise Medical Celebrates World Environment Day

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The Environment

FRESNO, Calif., June 5, 2018 –Sunrise Medical is a company committed to protecting the environment throughout its global facilities. Our environmental pledge was established years ago and guides our business practices, “Sunrise Medical is committed to environmental responsibility and our mission is to further promote green thinking throughout the global organization and our supply base.”

Each year, we establish goals to ensure we focus on this commitment and support “green” thinking throughout our company. We enthusiastically support the theme for this year’s World Environment Day; Beat Plastic Pollution and continuing our focus this past year on the environment which includes:

• Sunrise United Kingdom achieved zero waste to landfill, replaced their fleet of forklift trucks with ones that are 27% more energy efficient and introduced a formalized e-learning environmental tool for all employees.
• Sunrise Germany replaced plastic bubble wrap, bags and tape saving what amounts to approximately seven, 40 foot containers of plastic.
• Sunrise North America reduced an estimated 60,000 plastic bottles since expanding the number of water coolers in its facilities. Our Fresno facility added more recycle bins contributing to a 14% increase in the number of pounds recycled since last year.
• Sunrise UK, Germany, Tijuana, Poland, Fresno have all maintained ISO 14001 certification.
• Sunrise North America, Australia, United Kingdom, Poland,

Germany, Tijuana have continued to enhance their recycling programs making them more efficient, significantly reducing the amount of waste and furthering the recycle process into the supply chain. Fostering “green” thinking is part of the culture at Sunrise Medical. Last year we launched an internal campaign to develop a design for a reusable tote bag which was provided to each employee. This year we initiated a global contest for employees to submit the most creative ways to re use, recycle or replace plastic.

Sunrise Medical would like to wish you a Happy World Environment Day. Quoting the UN World Environment tagline for 2018, “If you can’t re-use it, refuse it”. We can each make a difference. About Sunrise Medical: A world leader in the development, design, manufacture and distribution of manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, motorized scooters and both standard and customized seating and positioning systems, Sunrise Medical manufactures products in their own facilities in the United States, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, China, Holland, Poland, Norway and Canada. Sunrise Medical’s key products, marketed under the QUICKIE®, Sopur®, ZIPPIE®, BREEZY®, Sterling®, JAY®, WHITMYER® and SWITCH-IT™ proprietary brands, are sold through a network of homecare medical product dealers or distributors in more than 130 countries. The company is headquartered in Malsch, Germany, with North American headquarters in Fresno, Calif., and employs more than 2,200 associates worldwide.

Imagine a city lit by glowing trees instead of streetlights

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Could genetically engineered trees that have been crossed with bioluminescent algae be the emissions-free lighting source of the future?

If you happened to be in San Diego last week and stood on the beach at night, you might have seen the ocean glowing an electric shade of blue as bioluminescent algae bloomed, a relatively rare natural phenomenon. In a lab in Denmark, researchers are trying to isolate the genes that makes the microalgae glow for another purpose: potential natural streetlights.

If the genes could be tweaked and added to trees, they say, it could be possible for trees to stand in for standard street lighting. “We could try to change some of that lighting from conventional, electricity-consuming lights to a more natural way of creating light,” says Kristian Ejlsted, CEO of Allumen, a new startup based near Copenhagen.

Ejlsted began researching bioluminescent algae as a student at the Technical University of Denmark, and his startup now sells kits with the algae that teachers can use to help visually explain photosynthesis, respiration, and other natural processes in science classes. Another product, for home use, will be a little like a lava lamp, with algae living in a saltwater-nutrient mixture, taking up sunshine during the day, and glowing at night. But Ejlsted is most interested in the larger potential for the genes that make the algae glow.

The tens of thousands of streetlights in large cities can make up, in some cases, the largest piece of city’s energy bills. Over the last decade, cities have increasingly switched from older technology to LED lights; in Los Angeles, for example, where the city began switching its 200,000-plus streetlight to LEDs in 2013, it cut energy use for the lights by more than 63%, saving nearly $10 million a year on energy and maintenance bills. But the lights are still a major source of emissions.

“In Denmark, almost all streetlights are now being replaced by LED lights,” Ejlsted says. “That’s a huge deal right now, and it’s going to save a lot of energy. But the fact is that they’re still using electricity–they’re using a little bit less, but it’s still electricity, and it still comes from burning fossil fuels. The real advantage of changing to a biological system is that the algae, for example, or the plant, they only need CO2 and sunlight and some water.”

The company is not the first to explore the idea of glowing plants and trees. One Kickstarter project, the Glowing Plant, raised nearly half a million dollars, but later told backers they’d failed in their quest to genetically engineer small plants that could glow. A team of researchers at MIT embedded nanoparticles with an enzyme from fireflies into plants, creating a faint glow. In France, biologist Pierre Calleja is experimenting with prototypes of lamps filled with glowing microalgae. Designer Daan Roosegaarde has also experimented with the idea of glowing trees.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Apple Now Runs On 100% Green Energy, And Here’s How It Got There

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The most important thing about the company’s big renewable push might be that it’s bringing everyone–from suppliers to local utilities–along for the ride.

You have to see Apple’s Reno, Nevada, data center from the inside to truly understand how huge it is. It’s made up of five long white buildings sitting side by side on a dry scrubby landscape just off I-80, and the corridor that connects them through the middle is a quarter-mile long. On either side are big, dark rooms–more than 50 of them–filled with more than 200,000 identical servers, tiny lights winking in the dark from their front panels. This is where Siri lives. And iCloud. And Apple Music. And Apple Pay.

Powering all these machines, and keeping them cool, takes a lot of power–constant, uninterrupted, redundant power. At the Reno data center, that means 100% green power from three different Apple solar farms.

The nearest one, and the first one built, is the Fort Churchill solar farm an hour southeast in desolate country near the town of Yerington, Nevada, where there’s nothing but flat, dry land bordered by low, jagged hills and blue desert sky. From the main road you can walk up to the fence and look down the seemingly endless lines of solar modules on the other side, with long concave mirrors catching and focusing the sun’s energy into the line of small black photo cells sitting just behind them.

Churchill is representative of the growing number of renewable energy sources that have popped up around Apple’s data centers in recent years. Since these massive computing machines use more power than any other kind of Apple facility, the company worked hard to get them powered by 100% renewable energy, reaching that goal in 2014.

Now Apple says it’s finished getting the rest of its facilities running on 100% green power–from its new Apple Park headquarters, which has one of the largest solar roofs on the planet, to its distribution centers and retail stores around the world. Though the 100% figure covers only Apple’s own operations–not those of of the suppliers and contract manufacturers which do much of the work of bringing its ideas to life–it’s also convinced 23 companies in its supply chain to sign a pledge to get to 100% renewable energy for the portion of their business relating to Apple products.

The achievement is the culmination of a furious effort over the past six years that involved financing, building, or locating new renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind farms, near the company’s facilities. Apple says it now has 25 operational renewable energy projects–with 15 more now in construction–in 11 countries. Just eight years ago, only 16% of its facilities were powered by renewable energy. By 2015 that number had increased to 93%, then to 96% in 2016.

Along the way, in 2013, Apple signaled its seriousness about green initiatives by hiring former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson as VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives. CEO Tim Cook wanted Jackson to focus Apple’s environmental initiatives, and perhaps act as a respected emissary to Washington, D.C. She’s done both.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Origami-Inspired Personal Shelter Provides A Quick Solution For Homeless

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Tina Hovsepian didn’t just want to get an “A” on her class project — she wanted to change people’s lives, too.

The architect is the inventor of Cardborigami — the collapsable, transportable and origami-inspired personal shelter she started inventing as a University of Southern California student in 2007. What started as Hovsepian’s academic assignment has become a feasible way to alleviate homelessness in her hometown of Los Angeles.

Hovsepian — who is currently raising funds to expand her product onto the streets of L.A. — was honored at a Women in the World event on March 18 for the design, and was awarded the Toyota Driving Solutions grant of $50,000 to further her work helping the homeless.

As she explained at the event, Hovsepian was moved to advocate for those in need after studying abroad in Cambodia, where her program helped redesign an impoverished school.

“It was… the first time witnessing firsthand third world poverty, and it got me really thinking about how privileged I am to be able to live in America, in Los Angeles, have an education, have supportive… people around me,” she said in a video produced by Women In The World, noting homelessness on Skid Row “is worse than [in] any third world country,” because the U.S. has the resources to do something about it.

Hovsepian is the founder and executive director of Cardborigami, the nonprofit, which is aiming to use the product as a way to secure permanent, long-term housing for those who need it.

The organization developed a four-step path out of homelessness, according to Hovsepian. First and foremost, Cardborigami will prioritize providing immediate shelter — such as its product — to those who need it. Secondly, the nonprofit will work with partner organizations that can provide social services to clients.

Securing permanent housing and then sustaining that housing through job placement are the third and final steps in the group’s model.

Continue onto HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

The New SMARTGarden by SproutsIO

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SproutsIO

MIT Media Lab alumna Jennifer Broutin Farah, CEO and co-founder of SproutsIO, has spent nearly a decade innovating in urban farming, designing small- and large-scale gardening systems that let anyone grow food, anywhere, at any time.

All this work will soon culminate with the commercial release of her startup’s smart, app-controlled microgarden that lets consumers optimize, customize, and monitor the growth of certain fruits, vegetables, and herbs year-round, all through their smart phones. The soil-free system uses only 2 percent of the water and 40 percent of the nutrients typically used for soil-grown plants.

Philosophically, the aim is to power a “personal produce” movement, Farah says, in which more people grow their own food, encouraging healthier eating and cutting down on waste.

“Over the last 60 years, we’ve gotten out of touch with growing our food,” Farah says. “But when you grow your own food, you care more about what happens to it. You’re not going to throw it away, you’re going to know exactly what’s going into your plants, you’re going to share your food with friends and family. It gives a new meaning to produce.”

Sensors monitor plant growth and transmit data to what Farah calls the “backbone” of the system: SproutsIOGrow. The app lets users customize their plants and monitor the plant’s growth in real time. Depending on light and nutrients added, for instance, tomatoes can be grown to taste sweeter or more savory.

The app also provides predictive growth cycles and connects to personal activity trackers, meal planners, and calendars to help with meal scheduling. A built-in camera takes regular snapshots of growing plants for health diagnostics and to create time-lapse images for users on the app.

Individual SproutsIO units can save consumers water, energy, and resources, while easing into growing their own food. If enough people adopt the system, Farah says, it could save significant amounts of water and encourage local, efficient growing. But the concept of optimized watering systems, if designed at scale, could also benefit a world where around 70 percent of fresh water is used for industrial agricultural, she adds.

“We need to be considering different solutions for growing that start to optimize the needs of the plant, rather than just pouring tons of water and nutrients on them,” explains Farah.

Author:
Rob Matheson, MIT News Office
Source: Reprinted with permission of MIT News
Original article can be viewed here

Levi’s Invented A Laser-Wielding Robot That Makes Ethical Jeans

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Levi’s Eureka Lab has concocted new laser tech to make creating ripped and washed jeans easier and more efficient. It saves time, effort, and the Earth.

You know those jeans that you love, the ripped ones that look like they’re 30 years old? (Even though you just bought them last year.)

You probably don’t realize it, but a team of designers took weeks to figure out exactly where to fade the indigo and position the tears for the most authentic vintage look. Then, factory workers used sandpaper and harsh chemicals to make it look properly worn in. The jeans were probably washed for hours, so that the blue color would fade out–even though those dyes would inevitably end up polluting the groundwater.

At Levi’s, a brand that talks about trying to be as sustainable and humane to workers as possible, the ugly reality of what it takes to make jean—especially when you are selling $4.6 billion worth of them a year—isn’t something that is brushed under the table.

“Our company alone offers over a thousand different finish looks per season, which is mind boggling,” says Bart Sights, who heads up Levi’s innovation center, called the Eureka Lab. “They’re all produced with very labor-intensive, repetitive motion jobs, and a long list of chemical formulations. That’s a pretty dark picture of how things have been.”

A GIANT LEAP FOR DENIM

But Sights believes the future is looking brighter. He and his colleagues at the lab have spent years working on a new laser technology that will, in a snap, do what now takes much longer. The breakthrough uses infrared light to etch off a very fine layer of the indigo and cotton from a pair of jeans, creating the same kind of faded finishes and tears in 90 seconds flat.

Today, Levi’s unveils this new tech, which Sights says will automate many new aspects of the company’s denim-making process, from the design and prototyping, to the manufacturing, to catering to consumer demand.  “It’s definitely not an incremental change,” Sights says. “It’s radical.”

“It started as an idea for a change in a manufacturing process,” says Liz O’Neill, Levi’s supply chain officer. “But it has actually evolved into a holistic digital transformation that covers the whole supply chain from end to end. We’ve opened up a whole new operating model.”

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

To Keep Plastic Out Of The Ocean, Companies Are Starting To Add It To Their Products

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Dell and Trek Bikes, among others, are working on building out a supply chain of ocean-bound plastics.

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing remarkable about the plastic packaging trays that hold new laptops inside their cardboard boxes. But this year, Dell transformed those banal objects into an experiment in rescuing and reusing 16,000 pounds of plastic this year that otherwise would’ve ended up in the oceans.

In April, the tech company rolled out the first round of its recycled plastic trays, which were created with a mix of rescued ocean plastic (25%) and other recycled plastics (75%). Using recycled materials is nothing new for Dell–since 2008, following the launch of an electronics recycling initiative, the company has to date incorporated more than 50 million pounds of repurposed plastics into its products.

It’s one thing for Dell to set up a circular-economy system that repurposes materials from its old products into newer models. But incorporating ocean-bound plastics required the company to step outside the sphere of its own products and build out an entirely new supply chain.

To do so, Dell worked with the Lonely Whale, an ocean advocacy foundation founded by the actor Adrian Grenier, and focused on reducing the volume of plastic in the oceans, which currently totals around 8 million tons per year. Dell first conducted a feasibility study in Haiti in 2016 to determine if and how the company could collect enough plastic from oceans and waterways, and to figure out how to wash and treat the collected materials in order to integrate it into their supply chain. The initial work in Haiti, says Oliver Campbell, Dell’s director of procurement for packaging, proved the concept, and gave Dell a sense of how this kind of effort could be scaled: They learned, for instance, that it’s more productive to focus on intercepting plastic while it’s still on land, rather than fishing it out of the seas.

Since that initial study, Dell and the Lonely Whale have shifted their focus to building out a supply chain of intercepted ocean plastics in Indonesia–one of the countries in the world with the largest accumulation of marine debris.

Establishing that supply chain is not a simple task. Dell and the Lonely Whale are partnering with global NGOs and on-the-ground recycled-materials suppliers in the Jakarta area, whom they will vet to ensure that the people actually responsible for clearing out plastic from the shores and waterways are paid well and treated ethically. They will also have to ensure that the recycling infrastructure in Indonesia can clean and process the marine plastics such that they can be repurposed into usable materials.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

New Year Kicks Off With Supermoon Lunapalooza

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Lunapalooza

By Mary Papenfuss

No matter what the rest of the New Year brings, earthlings are in for a double treat in January with the appearance of two supermoons. The first one rises the night of New Year’s Day. The second — a bound-to-be-memorable “super blue blood moon” — comes the last night of the month, topped off by a lunar eclipse.

A supermoon is a full moon that appears at the perigee, the closest point in the moon’s orbit to Earth. Supermoons appear to be about 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than full moons that appear at the apogee, the farthest point in the orbit, according to NASA.

The January supermoons are the end of a trilogy of big moon treats that began Dec. 3 with a full cold moon (a December full moon) that made for some spectacular photos.

Supermoons hang around all night, are easy to see and are not damaging to the eyes, no matter how long you moon-gaze. They often appear at their most spectacular as they rise and set, NASA notes.

The Jan. 1 supermoon will be the biggest of the year. The moon will appear to be oversized for a few nights after that, though will no longer be a full moon.

For those still nursing a hangover the night of Jan. 1, an even more intriguing supermoon will rise the night of Jan. 31. That will be the second full moon of the month, which is usually called a “blue moon” because a double full-moon month occurs essentially once in a blue moon — about every 2½ years. A blue moon is even rarer when it’s a supermoon.

But that won’t be the only rarity that night. The super blue moon will also occur during a total lunar eclipse, when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s light from reflecting off the moon. If skies are clear, the total eclipse will be visible from eastern Asia across the Pacific Ocean to western North America.

Lunar eclipses make moons appear blood red because of the way the blocked sunlight bends. So prepare yourself for the super blue blood moon the night of the lunar eclipse. To get the full effect of the lunar eclipse, watch at moonset, NASA advises.

“Sometimes, the celestial rhythms sync up just right to wow us,” notes the space agency.

Read the complete article and more articles like this from Huffington Post here