Two electrical engineers J-C Chiao and Smith Rao of the University of Texas have developed a wind turbine that is half the size of a grain of rice. It is one of the attempts at making power outlets obsolete. It is made of a durable metal alloy and connected by tiny wires that would be integrated into an item such as a smart phone. This in turn would deliver a tiny burst of energy. Other such items in the development are solar powered fabrics and wind powered hats. The tiny turbines would make the solar backpacks a thing of the past.
There is a movement in Los Angeles to encourage beekeeping in small backyard gardens. The city council has passed an amendment to allow residents to pursue keeping their own hives in an attempt to counteract the dramatic die-off of the honeybee populations. A quarter of the bee population has been lost in the past year by U.S. beekeepers. City bees do better in backyard gardens due to the lack of pesticides and a great variety of plant species. Great news is that this movement is starting to spread nationwide.
Where do we get the rich red color that makes up some of the food we eat daily? Few people realize that it is derived from pulverized insects. Extract of the cochineal bug, a scaly insect, has been used for centuries as a colorant. It is what gives color to berry flavored yogurt, some juices, imitation crab meat and even lipstick. It was discarded in the 19th century when scientists started using synthetic substitutes. Its resurgence is the result of consumers demanding the use of “natural” ingredients. The FDA has given its seal of approval on the use of this colorant. In places like Ghana, Papua New Guinea, and Bali, termites, dragonflies and beetle larvae are a big part of their diet regiment. In the west, we have more of a psychological problem with the use of bugs in our food. But the up side is –no known side effects!
Farmers are discovering, through the use of drones, how to monitor the health of their fields. Using drones not only spares farmers the expense of hiring a plane for hundreds of dollars an hour but reduces the amount of fuel emissions. Drones equipped with NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) can give farmers a heads-up months earlier as to crop yield instead of waiting until harvest time. The devices will help farmers spot potential diseases, weeds and flooding giving them sufficient time to remedy the problem. This will alleviate the need to spray acres and acres of farmland and concentrate on just the areas that need attention. This could be a big step in bringing healthier crops to market due to the reduction of pesticide usage.
Ocean breeze will now be generating renewable offshore energy. It is a first for America and will be supplying a small island community of Rhode island. Block Island previously relied on diesel-fueled generators as a power source. The wind turbines were made possible by the combined efforts of a company called Deepwater Wind and environmentally conscious political leadership. The project is small, only 5 wind turbines, but they are capable of supplying electricity to 17,000 homes and will supply 90% of the island’s needs. At present the cost is extremely high at $300 million, it will in turn reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tons per year. Because of the constant, strong winds blowing off the water, the Department of Energy has stated that if these turbines were placed along all our strategic waterways we could supply the country with twice the amount of energy the country needs. This would greatly reduce and possibly eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels in the future.
These are also known as water-based solar panels. They are usually placed in reservoirs, water treatment ponds or any body of water that is not used for recreation. The benefits of these water based panels are that they can prevent water from evaporating and deter algae from growing. The water also acts as a cooling agent for the solar panel. They are proving to generate up to 57% more energy than roof top panels. The panels are made of a non-corrosive material and are on a tracking system which allows them to move toward the direction of the most sunlight. Japan has been in the forefront of their use due to the unavailability of large areas of land for traditional solar panels. They are now becoming extremely popular in Australia and in the United States.
“Cocona” is a trademarked name for a lightweight, breathable sports wear fabric derived from coconut-husk waste. It is proven to be warm, water and odor resistant. Of the 50 billion coconuts grown worldwide annually, 85% of the coconut husks end up as trash. “Essentials Materials” a Texas based company has succeeded in transforming this waste product into automotive truck liners, planters and battery covers for electric cars. The process is accomplished by combining the husks with discarded recycled plastics.
In New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology a “Natural Dye Garden” has opened. It is a project run by the students and was given the support and a grant by the Clinton Global Initiative University. The aim of the garden is to bring awareness and alternatives to the harsh chemicals used in the dying process of fabric. All of the colors are derived from flowers, herbs and vegetables.