Dover’s First Robotic Community Garden

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Local “Salonprenuer”, Cyber Streets, and Inner City Cultural League (ICCL) team up to #RecodeTheCommunity and #MakeI.T.Happen in Dover with state’s first Robotic Community Garden!

Tracy Torres is not only the local “salonpreneur” and owner of Artt Studio 4 Hair INC. in Camden, Delaware, but she has served on Camden Town Cancel since 2014, and is also serving her community as the Vice Mayor on her second term.  Living to serve her community, she is also passionate about youth and community empowerment.  So much that as soon as she heard about Cyber Streets (CyberStreets.org), a local forward thinking, veteran led, tech-mentor program that is quickly gaining popularity across Delaware, she jumped to be first to host a fund raising event to support their newest cutting edge project:  building and deploying the state’s first robotic community gardens to inspire, empower, and serve at-risk inner city communities.  Extraordinarily, within 2 hours her and her community managed to raise enough of the remaining funding needed for Cyber Streets to secure their newest innovative “AgTech” community project.

Born to Serve

Tracy resiliently knows the challenges of finding opportunity all too well.  “I have been a licensed Cosmetologist since 1996 and before relocating to Delaware with my husband and then 8 month old daughter in late 2005, I worked full time in a Pharmaceutical Company and part time in a Hair Salon.  I had no idea how hard it would be to get a job in Delaware and actually commuted back and forth to NJ as a contract employee training new employees on the systems and policies for Sanofi-Aventis for almost a year. In 2006, I decided to leave corporate America and took a job in Delaware at a salon making $6.15 per hour and by October of 2007.  Soon after I decided I was going to open my own salon and on December 8, 2007.  I opened ‘ARTT Studio 4 Hair’ and haven’t looked back.  My love for helping others and constant need to keep my mind challenged, I decided to run for Camden Town Council in 2014.”

Tracy continued, “The first day I met Jason and heard about Cyber Streets, I knew I wanted to help him or work with him in some way. Helping kids understand, no matter their financial upbringing, that they can be successful is so important to me. I did not grow up with money but I have never let that hold me back and any organization that takes the time to teach a child their worth, is an organization I will support! “

“I was blown away when I received a call from Jason (Stewart, VP Cyber Streets) the night before the event informing me that she wanted her business to support us with a short notice fundraiser!” said Rob Bentley, Founder/President of Cyber Streets.  “Since I don’t ask to raise funds, which are historically independently funded from my own time and resources, for any of my community projects that we have been building for the last year and a half, I was pretty shocked when she called us out of the blue.  When others are willing to voluntarily get behind your mission to change the future technological talent pool across your state and country, big things are soon to happen, and we truly appreciate her support for the youth of tomorrow!”

#Opportunity4All

Rob Bentley, a former TEDx speaker and multi award winning Global Enterprise IT leader for the Department of Defense, is historically known for independently focusing his extraordinary positive “energy” by #TakingAction to manifest his community ideas to reality, of which he coined the hashtag/slogan #Vision2Fruition.  Over the last year and a half him and Jason, both military veterans dedicating their lives to serving communities in need several years after active duty,  have partnered and transformed the Inner City Cultural League (ICCL)/Sankofa Cultural Arts Center into an independent, community tech hub delivering #Opportunity4All.  The center now hosts their ongoing, self-sustaining, weekly tech-mentor program that runs not just 1 day, not 1 week, but year round all through the summer.   In that short time they have reached and positively impacted over 300 lives of youth and families across the state.  The majority of those impacted, for the moment, reside in the state’s capital of Dover.  Thus far Cyber Street’s methodical efforts have already empowered not just youth, but single mother’s/father’s, foster children, combat veteran’s, teachers, musicians, high school/college students, and technologists with new enlightened career choices to pursue at no cost to them other than finding internet access.

Rob decided to start Cyber Streets for several reasons, one being that he himself is no stranger to the adversity of the communities he so passionately serves which is sometimes very challenging for him to talk about.  Growing up was rough as his family like so many from his community often struggled to make ends meet.  Often they would live in unsavory environments, without electric or water on several extended occasions.  At 9 he began to strategize and coordinate the free food he could gather from local grocery store and restaurant dumpsters.  “You would be amazed at the amount of good food restaurants and grocery chains throw away for insurance reasons. I soon realized that just because something was out of date didn’t necessarily mean it was bad or spoiled”.

As a youth Rob had also been homeless for a couple spells living in motels for several weeks.  “It was really emotionally challenging for 7 of us living in a motel room or a 2 bedroom duplex while trying to succeed in school after transferring from high school to high school.”  It became such a stressing challenge that he eventually dropped out and went back to ace his GED and aggressively pursued a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  No matter what happened growing up, he was always appreciative that his stepdad did the best he could to keep some sort of roof over their head.

Then his whole world traumatically turned upside down when his brother/best friend commit suicide because he never truly knew how to love and take care of himself.  “That was by far the most challenging part of my life.  It took me years to eventually heal.  During that time, I was only living through the pain for others, not myself.  But after I did heal, I began looking for more opportunities to help serve and support others struggling with adversity in hopes someone else would not have to endure the pain and heartbreak that me and my family did.”

“When we work with all these communities that struggle with intense adversity, my heart gets feverously motivated and driven to gather and shed tremendous light and hope in their lives, because I see myself and my brother in ALL of them.”

He eventually left the restaurant industry to pursue a career in education, but soon after 9/11 took place and several months after the country went to war he felt that he should be serving as well.   After achieving some of the highest scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) he received his choice to go into the Information Technology (I.T.) field with the USAF, and since then hasn’t looked back.  “I.T. was a gift that truly enabled me with versatile and limitless opportunity!  All I wanted to do is share the opportunity and inspire others, so eventually I began my journey of #TakingCyberToTheStreets!”

#STEMingTheFuture

Today, a year and a half later, the program has rapidly evolved from teaching communities to rebuild and repurpose donated computers, to 3D printing violins for their community strings programs, to 3D printing custom prosthetic arms for the community, to now building and donating the newest Robotic Community Garden back to the community.  “One of our core purposes is that we (Cyber Streets) don’t just provide the typical popular STEM camp/class into the community.” Bentley states. “We recruit the gardeners (mentors) to plant, nurture, and water the seeds (people) in the garden (community) and provide the sunlight/water (inspiring hope/opportunity) for them to grow into the opportunistic, high-demand, technological future.  That is precisely why we branded one of our slogans “#FindThemPlantThemGrowThem.”

“This is why this new Robotic Community Garden is the perfect symbol of our community’s collective efforts.” Bentley states.  “We ensure everything that we put into the community also provides them the capability and requirement to sustainably give back to the community through what they have been provided and exposed to, basically paying-it-forward and #STEMingTheFuture, #4TheCommunityByTheCommunity.”

The new community garden is one of several projects that Cyber Streets is planning for each county.  As a predominantly agricultural state Delaware understands how critical agriculture is for the survival of the planet.  However, most of the communities Cyber Streets serves aren’t aware of  the amount of complex technology that is required to support the rapid evolution of “stack farming”, robotic harvesting,  drone mapping, GPS navigated farm machines,  and other remarkable innovations in agricultural technologies to name a few.  In a rapidly evolving farming era that is increasingly supported and driven by new tech, this also means there are exciting AgTech jobs that have a serious demand to be filled across the region, country, and world.  Like many other critical STEM fields, one of the problems is that many communities are not exposed over the long term to these exciting opportunities.  Although there may be amazing facilities they can go to for educational exposure, they are often miles away, out of reach, and out of mind.  This robotic garden changes that AgTech opportunity for exposure by bringing it to the community, Cyber Streets core mission, and placing amazing scalable AgTech in their own backyard.  This technology has the capability to migrate a farmer into a techie and a techie into a farmer while reducing the carbon footprint, which can be very exciting for the future of humanity.

The robotic technology behind the garden is an open-source solution provided and developed by FarmBot.  Currently educators, non-profits, and farmers are joining the small growing community around the globe (including NASA) for research, development, and STEM/STEAM education purposes.  It provides an extraordinarily dynamic educational opportunity to combine elements of (but not limited to) agricultural sciences, meteorology, coding, engineering, data analytics, gaming, IoT, mathematics, computer science, and much more.  Currently Rob Bentley has specific research and development plans for his second unit to work with FarmBot and the local community to make it fully portable, affordable, and accessible to any community.

“We can always tell our communities that endless opportunity is out there, but unless we find a way to place it in their hands and enable them to truly experience it in every location possible, then they may never truly experience how important and exciting it is.  It is not merely enough to build really amazing state-of-the-art tech/innovation centers several miles away from the communities that truly need them.” Bentley says.  “We need the capability to place it in their hands wherever they are.  That is where we come in by ‘replacing idle hands with keyboards’, and by enforcing #UnityInTheCommunity, #SafetyOnOurStreets, and #Opportunity4All!  We accomplish all this by harnessing the extraordinary power of technology, innovation, and human spirit!  We often accomplish our efforts with an engaging and empowering conversation followed by a detailed email with a specific custom roadmap for the free tools/resources and career pathways they desire.  Fortunately, now AgTech can be included in that critical and empowering conversation as well.”

#ST(R)EAMingForward

Cyber Streets and ICCL say this is only the beginning.  Over the last year and a half they have partnered and built several alliances across the state with direct support advocate organizations like that have donated considerable time, personnel, resources, and public advocacy directly to the program and its outreach initiatives.  Those remarkable organizations include the Delaware Youth Philanthropy Board,   SecureNetMD, Dover Air Force Base, Dover Capital City Rotary Club, Leadership Delaware, Transcore (DELDOT), Bob Johnson’s Computer Stuff, Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education, Sussex County STEM Alliance, and University of Delaware to name just a few.  Additionally, they have several strategic plans already in motion to not only infuse Computer Science into the school system with their various national partners, but will soon begin a new partnership that empowers struggling, and sometimes hopeless families across the state and around the globe by providing a family building/bonding model which provides a new world of opportunity for everyone!

“We ensure that we are very clear on our message.  This being that the “T” in STEM/STEAM, Tech, touches EVERYTHING.  This means that because the world of tech is the fundamental foundational fabric for virtually all industries that you have opportunity to traverse into virtually ANY field of your desire!  The beautiful thing about technology is that it is FULLY inclusive and does NOT discriminate against race, religion, political affiliation, disability, or gender.  After they are exposed, the only thing holding a person back from opportunity is their own mind, and that is where mentors play a crucial motivational role.  With tech ANYONE, from the affluent to non-affluent, can find a passionate career in science, engineering, art, agriculture, government, academia, banking, marketing, healthcare, and the sky is the limit!

Probably some of the most powerful testimony about Cyber Streets comes directly from the community itself.  In a recent statement the ICCL Director, Kathrina Stroud, stated the following about working with Cyber Streets for the last year and a half to pilot their empowering philosophy:

“Cyber Streets is not just a program. It is a philosophy.  It is a way of life.  It is a way of thinking.  Rob has a vision of positively impacting the world.  Yes, the WORLD!  When you see him, you see unchecked drive, determination, creativity, imagination, and ENERGY.  That is Cyber Streets!  If you have an idea or a problem to solve, research it; make a plan; put it into action; never give up! It doesn’t take a technology center, or a lot of money.  It can be in your basement or backyard with your children and their friends. There are plugged-in and unplugged activities that are fun and educational.  There aren’t many things I can think of that aren’t related in some way to technology.  My daughter and I changed light bulbs on her car this summer. That may sound like a simple task to some, but neither of us had ever done it. Technology related?  You decide.  I, no… WE have been bitten by the Cyber Streets bug.  I can!  You can!  We can!  I love this philosophy.  What’s that song?  ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now!’

ICCL is uber excited to begin implementing this new project into their community!  The newly hired english teacher turned tech teacher/mentor, local community techie father turned technology leader/mentor, meteorology/media/communications mentor, and the rest of the ICCL staff are all motivated to embark on this new exciting journey with Cyber Streets together!

“When several growing communities across the state and country get behind your empowerment efforts, extraordinary things begin to manifest at an accelerated pace!” Bentley states.  “When they do, you had better be ready to #TakeAction and #MakeITHappen!”

Students Clean Up Garbage Problem For 2018 National Day of Design

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In anticipation of National STEM/STEAM Day (November 8, 2018), STEMconnector’s National Day of Design returns with a Mission for students of all grade levels to design solutions for eliminating food waste in their school’s cafeteria. This innovative design challenge encourages real-world critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and overall Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills while connecting students to a larger national movement – over 30,000 students across the country participated in 2017’s inaugural National Day of Design.

With approximately 20 percent of today’s jobs requiring some level of STEM background according to the National Science Board, helping young people develop these skills is critical to individual, community, and national economic success. However, despite sizeable investment by K-12, higher education, industry, and nonprofits, the workforce loses potential STEM employees at every stage of the pipeline. Experiential learning opportunities are proven to drive STEM interest and build critical employability skills that will guide young people through their education and careers.

The 2018 National Day of Design Mission, Food Rescuers: STEM Innovations to Reduce Food Waste, provides an opportunity for students in grades K-12 to acquire deep understanding about a challenge that impacts their daily lives and their communities while using interdisciplinary skills in various sciences, English, technology, and the fundamentals of engineering to design a new invention that will reduce food waste in their school’s cafeteria.

“This Mission reminds students that each of us has a role to play in solving complex global challenges at the local level,” said Erin White, Senior Director of Product Development & Research at STEMconnector. “It helps them to make the connection that what they learn in school can actually be applied in the world around them. That these are the skills adults use to solve actual problems. And hopefully that translates into lifelong interest in STEM and problem-solving.”

The standards-aligned Mission can be downloaded for free at: www.nationaldayofdesign.com after August 15, and participants are asked to share photos, quotes, videos, and other updates from the Mission on social media using #DayofDesign2018 on November 8. For additional information, contact DayofDesign @ STEMconnector.com.

Day of Design is an initiative of STEMconnector, a professional services firm committed to increasing the number of STEM-ready workers in the global talent pool. The organization provides a platform for cross-sector learning and engagement for a passionate network of leaders who are collectively re-envisioning the workforce.

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.

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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.”

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