Ecology

Philanthropist creates vast national parks in Chile

By Jinny Throup

Thanks to the largest private land donation in history, a sparsely-populated area in South America, known for its untouched landscape and beautiful national parks, will continue to be preserved. Over 400,000 hectares were donated to the Chilean government by a philanthropic American couple - the late Doug Tompkins (founder of The North Face clothing and equipment line) and his widow Kristine. The couple had spent the past 25 years acquiring this land in Patagonia with the goal of preserving it. In 2015 Doug died in a tragic kayaking accident, and since that time Kristine has been working with [...]

Glastonbury Festival bans sale of single-use plastics

By Jinny Throup

The famous Glastonbury Festival (UK) has banned the sale of single-use plastics from all of their events. Not only will plastic drinks bottles be unavailable to purchase, they will also no longer be supplied in any of the festival’s backstage, production, catering and dressing room areas. Festival-goers are being encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles which they can refill at any of the hundreds of free water taps, or at ‘WaterAid’ kiosks around the site. In excess of one million plastic bottles have been sold at Glastonbury every year for the past decade. So it is high time [...]

A capital city centre with no cars

By Jinny Throup

As in many cities, the centre of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana had always been crowded with polluting car traffic. Ten years ago they decided to do something about it, and since then the city centre has been car-free. Residents who live in the city centre have to park their cars at an underground garage outside the car-free area and walk from there. The only exceptions are for elderly and disabled people or mothers with young children who are offered free rides in electric taxis. Bicycles and buses are the only other form of traffic permitted in the historic and compact city centre. At first local [...]

Recycling almond shells

By Jinny Throup

The production of almond-based products has increased greatly in recent years, as word has spread about the many healthy benefits to be had from them. However, this rapid rise in production has created a massive amount of waste from the hull or shell that protects the nut. Traditionally, these were fed to dairy cows but because of the decline in dairy products (ironically due in part to almond milk) producers in the US are experimenting with other solutions. One possibility is crushing and compressing the hulls to create sugar which can be converted into hard cider, beer and tea. These sugars [...]

France supports recycled plastic

By Jinny Throup

As part of a pledge to use only recycled plastic nationwide by 2025, France introduced a penalty system in 2019 that increases the cost of goods that use non-recycled plastic packaging. Under the new plan, products with recycled plastic packaging will cost up to 10% less than their non-recycled counterparts. France has already outlawed single-use shopping bags in supermarkets in an effort to encourage shoppers to use their own bags. The government also intends to increase taxes on burying waste in landfills, whilst at the same time cutting taxes for recycling operations. They say that this [...]

Avocado pits converted to plastic

By Jinny Throup

There is growing awareness that plastic straws, cups, plates and disposable cutlery are very damaging to the environment. One way to face this challenge is to come up with new forms of plastic that are biodegradable and sustainable. A company in Mexico is doing just that by manufacturing a bioplastic that is made from avocado pits. Biofase was founded by Scott Mungia who, as an engineering student, had been motivated to find a reliable source of biodegradable plastic. After testing the properties of numerous raw materials, he came up with the idea of extracting a molecular compound from the avocado [...]

Norway chooses ecology over profits

By Jerry Brownstein

Western Europe’s biggest petroleum producer is falling out of love with fossil fuels. To the dismay of Norway’s powerful oil industry, the government has withdrawn its support for offshore oil exploration around the sensitive Lofoten islands in the Norwegian Arctic. A solid majority of the parliament has decided to keep this pristine natural area off limits to drilling. Oil companies led by state-controlled Equinor ASA, the biggest Norwegian producer, said that gaining access to Lofoten had been crucial if the country wanted to maintain production, as existing oil fields are being depleted. Estimates [...]

Recycling plastic at the subway

By María Vila Rebolo

Let’s say you are in Istanbul but you don’t have enough cash for the bus fare… No worries! You can now refill your travel card with recycled plastic bottles. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) has an environmentally friendly system that lets you top up your card by recycling plastic. They have installed automated "Smart Mobile Waste Transfer Machines" across the city which take used plastic bottles and containers as payment. The machine issues a credit corresponding to the value of each plastic item entered. These reverse vending machines have been installed in 25 locations around the [...]

EU ban on single-use plastics

By Jinny Throup

In a bid to stop pollution of our landfills and oceans, the EU has called for a complete ban on a wide range of single-use plastics by 2021. The directive targets some of the most common polluting plastics such as straws, drink-stirrers, cotton buds, cutlery and plates, as there are readily available alternatives to these products. Other items, where no easy alternatives yet exist, such as burger boxes and sandwich wrappers, will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Another ambitious target is to ensure that 90% of all plastic drink bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. [...]

Morgan Freeman aids bees

By Jinny Throup

The esteemed American actor Morgan Freeman has converted his 50 hectare Mississippi ranch into a sanctuary for bees, in an effort to help counter their decreasing population. The sanctuary consists of 26 large beehives where Freeman feeds the bees sugar water to spur their growth, and has planted bee-friendly trees and plants such as clover, lavender and magnolia. He has no intention of harvesting honey or disrupting the bees in any way. It seems as if the bees sense his good intentions as they have not yet stung him even though he never wears a bee suit or hat! The decline of bee colonies [...]

Green walls in your home

By Jerry Brownstein

Long relegated to corporate atriums and hotel lobbies, living green walls, or vertical gardens, are becoming increasingly popular in private homes. These lush walls of plants clean the air, insulate the home from outside noise and create a soothing environment. They are also a beautiful and natural work of art. Gennaro Brooks-Church (who grew up here on Ibiza) is a creative builder in New York, and his company, Eco Brooklyn, installs green walls in homes throughout the city - usually as part of a modernizing renovation. Brooks-Church has been perfecting the concept [...]

Soluble plastic bags

By María V. R.

A group of Chilean scientists have created a plastic bag which does not pollute the environment because it can disappear. The ‘SoluBag’ is just as strong as a traditional plastic bag, but it dissolves on contact with water in just five minutes. The bag does not leave any kind of contaminant in the water, so it remains potable. But what happens when it rains! Of course the inventors have thought about that, and they assure us that the bags only dissolve when the water is a certain temperature. When demonstrating the product, the creators of SoluBag put one into a container with water to [...]

Spain's green energy plan

By Jerry Brownstein

A new plan put forward by the government of Spain aims to cut carbon emissions by 50% and produce 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Teresa Ribera, minister for ecological transition, states that the new government, which came to power in June 2018, aims to revolutionize the energy sector of the economy. Under this proposal there will be no new licences issued for oil and gas exploration in Spanish waters, and all drilling will stop completely by 2040. Cars fuelled by petrol or diesel will be phased out, and after 2040 only electric and other “zero emission” vehicles [...]

Ireland stops fossil fuel investments

By Jinny Throup

A bill supported by all political parties has been passed in the Republic of Ireland’s lower houses of parliament which compels the country’s national investment fund to sell all of its €312 million investments in global fossil fuel companies as soon as possible. This far-reaching commitment is part of a divestment movement that is pushing governments, religious institutions, universities and other organizations to divest their money from coal, oil and gas companies. Norway, the Church of England and 40 Catholic Church institutions have said they will be turning their backs on fossil fuel investment. [...]

Straws that are re-usable and collapsible

By Jinny Throup

Re-usable straws have been on the market for quite some time, but they are not very convenient to carry about. ‘FinalStraw’ provides the solution using a clever mechanism that allows the straw to fold down into a lightweight case that is small enough to fit on your keychain. Created by Canadians Emma Cohen and Miles Pepper, the straw is made from stainless steel and is designed to last a lifetime. It is suitable for both hot and cold drinks, is dishwasher-proof and comes with a mini-squeegee to keep it clean on the go (this also collapses and fits inside the same case). Plastic straws [...]

Water bottle refill points in London

By Jinny Throup

In an effort to reduce the amount of waste caused by plastic water bottles in the city of London, a network of new drinking fountains and bottle refill points will be rolled out this summer. This pilot scheme will see twenty new drinking fountains being installed across the city. In addition, a bottle refill initiative, whereby businesses make tap water available to the public, will be set up across five areas of London. If this proves to be successful then the program will be expanded to the rest of the city during the summer. Those businesses offering free tap water will display signs [...]

The Palau Pledge

By Jinny Throup

In the world’s first initiative of its kind, Palau, an archipelago of around 200 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, has introduced a “passport pledge” in an effort to protect the environment and preserve their homeland. The pledge is stamped into visitors’ passports and must be signed before they are allowed to enter the country. If anyone is found breaking the conditions of the pledge, they risk incurring a heavy fine. It was drafted with the help of children from across Palau, and everyone who signs promises that they will: not litter, not smoke in restricted areas, avoid treading on or touching [...]

Floating solar power in China

By Michelle Robertson

China is literally making waves with the news that it has built a huge floating solar energy array on the surface of a lake. Located in Huainan province, this solar structure is the biggest of its kind, and can produce enough electricity to power the lights and air conditioning of a large nearby city - around 40 Megawatts of electricity at its’ peak. This is another step forward for China as it continues to make progress in reducing its reliance on fossil fuel energy sources. This news is even a bit ironic because the solar installation is floating on a lake that was formed by a [...]

The world’s first hemp airplane

By Jerry Brownstein

The Canadian cannabis company Hempearth has designed the world’s first airplane that is made from and powered by cannabis. The primary material used is hemp - the non-psychoactive member of the cannabis family. Not only does this totally functional plane run on 100% hemp oil, but it was made entirely from cannabis. Everything from the seats, the wings, the plane walls and even the pillows contains hemp. This natural and earth-friendly material had been used for numerous purposes since ancient times, but in recent decades it fell into disuse due to confusion with its psychoactive cousin marijuana. [...]

Greenhouse of the future

By Michelle Robertson

Given the uncertainty of global warming, innovators are looking for alternative ways to produce food without relying on the unstable natural climate. A team from Quebec, Canada claim to have developed an eco-friendly and exceptionally cost-effective solution to our future food needs. It’s a micro-climate that allows people to grow their food all-year round with minimal energy usage. They designed and built a special growing system that allows organic food to grow in any climate. It is also very inexpensive to construct as it uses recycled materials. In addition to growing food, this ‘greenhouse [...]

Plants are sensitive to what we say

By Jinny Throup

The Swedish company, IKEA recently created an inspirational video to support the company’s  #SayNoToBullying campaign. A very interesting part of the project was an experiment to see what happens when kids in a school bully a plant. A group of students were asked to make voice recordings, and half of the children were asked to repeat positive verbal compliments, while the other half repeated verbal abuse. Two identical Dracaena plants were taken to the school, and for 30 days they received exactly the same physical care with water, light and fertiliser. The only difference was that one of [...]

Innovative bamboo houses

By María V. R.

A young Filipino has won the international “Cities of the Future Award” for designing a bamboo house that can be assembled in just four hours. It is called CUBO, and the jury that awarded the prize highlighted its simplicity which makes it a practical solution for a global problem. Earl Forlales designed these dwellings with the aim of solving the housing crisis in his native country. The spark of the idea came from his grandfather's bamboo hut where he spent his childhood, and which has stood for decades. His goal is to offer decent, affordable and sustainable residences to the four million inhabitants [...]

Carrefour supports reusable packaging

By Jinny Throup

The French supermarket giant Carrefour has over 1,000 stores in Spain, and it is now allowing customers to bring their own food storage containers (like Tupperware) in all locations. Shoppers are able to put their fresh groceries into glass or plastic containers rather than having them wrapped up or put into a plastic bag. The only stipulation is that the containers must be transparent and come with lids. The move is part of Carrefour’s “Act for food” campaign which aims to cut down on plastic use both in its own operations and for its shoppers in their homes. As part of this initiative they have [...]

Innovative plastic bottle recycling in Norway

By Jinny Throup

A deposit-based system for recycling plastic bottles in Norway is being studied for widespread adoption in other parts of Europe. The industry-led scheme recycles 97% of the country’s bottles and has massively reduced plastic litter on both land and sea. It works like this: You pay a deposit on every bottle that you purchase. The amount of the deposit ranges from about 10 to 25 centimos depending on the size of the bottle. When the bottle is empty you place it into a deposit-return machine which reads the barcode and gives you a coupon for the amount of your deposit. Ecologists [...]

Vertical highway gardens in Mexico and India

By Jinny Throup

Innovative green projects have been launched in both Mexico and India which aim to improve air quality. In Mexico City the Via Verde initiative has over 40,000 square metres of vertical gardens on more than 700 columns of the city’s ring road. They project that each year this will filter over 27,000 tonnes of harmful gases, capture about 5,000 kg of suspended powders, and process more than 10,000 kg of heavy metals. These vertical plants will also add a significant amount of oxygen to the air. The system has automated irrigation to keep the plants healthy, and most of the water used comes from [...]

Beer bottles made into sand

By Jinny Throup

DB Breweries of New Zealand has created a machine that pulverizes beer bottles and turns them into fine-grain sand in just five seconds. When an empty bottle is deposited, the machine first eliminates the plastic labels, and then uses miniature steel hammers to crush the bottle into a sand-like substance. Not only could this help to keep glass out of landfills, but it also provides a solution to the problem of extensive sand mining. Two-thirds of the world’s beaches are seriously depleted because so much sand is being used for the construction and manufacturing industries. This machine has the [...]

World’s cutest solar energy farm

By Carmen Loren

A massive solar installation in the shape of a panda was recently opened near Beijing in China. This interesting initiative was devised by the Panda Green Energy company, and they say that the goal of the design is to interest children in how clean, renewable electricity can be generated. But perhaps more important to the Chinese authorities is that this panda-plant is a way to get positive international attention, as they try to leave behind their image as a highly polluting country with hundreds of coal power plants. Moreover, given the rejection by Trump of the United States’ commitment to [...]

Progress for home solar in Spain

By María Vila Rebolo

Solar panels could soon cover millions more rooftops in Spain and the rest of Europe after the EU reached a deal to make it easier for households to play a part in the renewable energy transition. The European Parliament and member governments agreed to the right of citizens, local authorities, small businesses and cooperatives to produce, consume, store and sell their own renewable energy, without being subject to punitive taxes or excessive red tape. In addition this law makes it easier for people to set up their own renewable energy projects. Cooperative projects like this bring much more revenue [...]

Shopping mall for recycled goods

By Michelle Robertson

A shopping centre with a twist in Sweden is the heart of a new way to think about retail commerce. It is entirely dedicated to repairing and upcycling goods, and then reselling them. This is a model that could be followed all over the world to help create a ‘circular economy’ - one in which products are reused so that manufacturing uses less energy and less raw materials. Shoppers are flocking to this new concept located in the Swedish city of Eskilstuna, about 100 kilometres west of Stockholm. There are 14 shops selling everything from furniture and building materials to computers and clothing. [...]

UK plans for electric vehicle charging stations

By Jinny Throup

London-based Pivot Power has unveiled ambitious plans to accelerate electric vehicle adoption and usher in low carbon transport. Taking a page from Tesla’s book, they plan to construct 45 large charging stations around the UK in locations near towns and major roads. Each station will have fast charging 50 megawatt batteries, with enough capacity to support a variety of electric charging needs including rapid charging stations for cars, electric bus depots and bases for large transport fleets. At the moment, the three major barriers to electric vehicle adoption are availability of chargers, [...]

France moving away from fossil fuels

By Jinny Throup

The French parliament passed a law banning the ecologically unsafe practice of fracking to obtain oil and gas. This is part of a larger plan to end all production of oil and gas by the year 2040. Beyond that date, no new permits will be granted to extract fossil fuels and no existing licenses will be renewed. The ban will not only affect production and prospecting for oil in mainland France, but also in its overseas territories such as Guyana in South America. President Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants France to become a leading nation in the movement to replace fossil fuels and nuclear [...]

The architect of trash

By María V. R.

Who says that you cannot build houses with bottles, tires, and used cans? The visionary architect Michael Reynolds has been doing it for more than 35 years in his now-famous ‘Earthships’ - houses built mostly from trash. He has founded an experimental community in Taos, New Mexico (US) that consists exclusively of Earthships which are constructed using local natural materials and waste products. The inhabitants live in symbiosis with nature raising their own crops, and managing their own water treatment systems. The [...]

An ecological alternative to plastic

By Carmen Loren

Most people are aware that plastic rubbish is a very serious problem on a global scale. Fortunately, the scientific community has long been working to find the perfect alternative to conventional plastics that are made from fossil fuels. A promising new material has been created by researchers at Harvard University (US), and they call it ‘Shrilk’. It is made from chitosan, which is a component present in the shells of many crustaceans and insects, that has amazing resistance and flexibility. These characteristics make Shrilk a real alternative to plastic, and its creators say that it is also twice [...]

Protecting Antarctic Ocean wildlife

By María V. R.

In a progressive step toward protecting our oceans and climate, 85% of krill fishing companies have agreed to stop fishing in areas around Antarctica. Krill are small crustaceans – like very tiny shrimp – that are the main diet of many larger animals including whales, seals, squid, penguins, and other fish. Since krill are one of the most important elements in the Antarctic food chain, declining numbers have threatened the wildlife that depends on them. Protecting the krill will also help in the fight against climate change because krill feed on the algae that produce greenhouse gases near the [...]

Free solar energy for 800,000 UK homes

By Michelle Robertson

As many as 800,000 low-income homes across England and Wales could get free solar panels as part of a major new government program. The potential savings on energy bills for each home would be about €270 per year. The €1.2 billion project will be led by the renewable energy company Solarplicity in partnership with local housing providers who will install the solar panels. Residents in the northwest of England will be the largest beneficiaries of the scheme. About 100,000 homes that fall into the ‘fuel poverty’ category will be the first to receive the free panels this year, with the rest [...]

Traditional farming creates a wildlife haven

By Jinny Throup

An experiment using 13th century farming methods has transformed a stretch of the Welsh coastline into a haven for rare animals, birds and wildflowers. Four National Trust rangers along with 80 volunteers spent 12 months recreating a 13th century patchwork of fields that includes 2,000 metres of banks and hedges. The “strip field” farming method involved planting flower crops, including sunflowers, poppies, lavender and lupins, alongside more arable crops such as millet, wheat, oats and barley. Other nearby fields were uncultivated and remained as wildflower hay meadows with grasses and flora. [...]

India’s solar powered trains

By Michelle Robertson

Indian Railways has found an innovative way to harness natural energy by mounting solar panels on the top of its coaches. Power from these panels runs the lights, fans, and information display systems inside the passenger coaches. While the train itself will still be pulled by a diesel-powered locomotive, solar energy will replace the diesel generators that typically power these appliances. The idea was developed by Jakson Engineers. Sundeep Gupta, managing director of the company, explained: “It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80 [...]

Animals as lawn mowers

By María V. R.

Some large cities in Europe and the US are finding that grazing animals are an efficient substitute for lawn mowers. Although it may seem like an innovative experiment, urban grazing is a return to the times before the Industrial Revolution when agriculture, livestock and the city were not three separate concepts. Recent images of animals grazing in the vast open spaces at airports, golf courses, urban parks, etc., have put the spotlight on this practice. Even the Ibiza Golf Course has used donkeys to cut the grass in areas that are difficult to reach. The Paris Archives uses a flock of [...]

Palestinian solar energy revolution

By María V. R.

From orderly rows of solar panels in a field in the West Bank to the chaotic rooftops of Gaza, Palestinians are hoping that harnessing the energy of the sun can reduce their dependence on Israel for electricity. The West Bank only gets around 70% of the power its 3 million people need, and in the Gaza Strip power generation is so paltry that the 2 million Gazans struggle with an average of just four hours of electricity a day. In the West Bank, the public and private sectors have launched projects using solar power to achieve more self-sufficiency. Over the past four years the number of solar [...]

Scotland bans fracking

By Michelle Robertson

Scotland’s government has unanimously voted to ban the controversial process of drilling for oil and gas using the technique of hydraulic fracturing - popularly known as “fracking”. Following a public consultation, a staggering 99% of the 60,000 responses completely opposed fracking. The vast majority felt that protecting the environment far outweighed any possibility of economic benefits. Speaking about the landmark decision, Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "The Scottish government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland. The views expressed [...]

Better efficient light bulbs

By Jerry Brownstein

Ever since the EU restricted sales of traditional incandescent light bulbs, people have complained about the shortcomings of their energy-efficient replacements. The clinical white beam of LED and fluorescent (CFL) bulbs is not as attractive as the warm glow of traditional filament bulbs, which also show colours far more naturally. In addition, there is evidence that the blue light emitted by modern bulbs could be harmful to our vision. But help is on the way as scientists in the US have come up with a solution which could bring back the old light bulbs by making them extremely efficient. Traditional [...]

Global wind power surpasses nuclear

By Jerry Brownstein

According to data released by the Global Wind Energy Council, the worldwide capacity of wind power has surpassed that of nuclear energy for the first time. Wind power generation worldwide reached 432 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2015, while global nuclear power generated 382 GW. The capacity of wind power increased by 17% in 2015, and these newly constructed wind farms equalled the power of about 60 nuclear reactors. China has now supplanted the European Union as the leader in the global wind power sector. However, to keep that in perspective, China also has the largest installed [...]

Google to be 100% renewable

By Michelle Robertson

One of the world’s largest companies is powering its entire operation with renewable energy. Google made a promise in 2015 to be 100% green by the end of this year and it’s sticking by that pledge. The massive organization has revealed that all their data centres will still be hooked up to the electric grid to ensure continuous service. However, they will buy enough ‘green energy credits’ to more than cover their entire electric usage, so the company will actually be purchasing more renewable energy than they are using. The search giant will become the biggest corporate buyer of renewable [...]

Innovative Plant Pods

By María Vila Rebolo

Imagine that you could have an inexpensive, nutritious food source in your home that required no daily maintenance. While this may sound too good to be true that is exactly what the innovative agricultural company called Aggressively Organic has developed. They claim that their micro-gardening ‘Plant Pods’ can grow more lettuce in a 3 square metre room than can be produced on 2,000 square metres of farmland. The Plant Pods are built with a hydroponics system that uses no soil. This means that owners only need to water the pods every few weeks. Not only is this beneficial for busy people who forget [...]

Let’s clean IBIZA and be part of the movement!

Ibiza Limpia, Proartso and Plastic Free Ibiza invite everybody who loves the beauty of Ibiza, to join them in the biggest World Clean up Action ever, on the 15th of September 2018. On the World Clean up Day 15th of September, millions of people in 150 countries will stand up against the global mismanaged waste problem and clean the world in a single day. The environmental groups in Ibiza will rise to the challenge and organise a massive clean up of the whole island the same day. Citizens, local governments, NGOs and various companies are already getting [...]

Fix it instead of throwing it away

By María Vila Rebolo

The association Friends of the Earth (FOE) has begun a campaign through social networks with the aim of showing the environmental benefits of what they call "lengthening”.  Their goal is to stop the rampant consumerism caused by programmed obsolescence – a prevalent form of marketing that deliberately designs objects with a very limited lifespan. The campaign uses vivid photos which show how we can fix things instead of throwing them away. This is basic to creating a sustainable world. The project is part of the “They deserve a 10” ("Se Merecen un 10") campaign, which highlights the work [...]

Amazing underground refrigerator

By Michelle Robertson

An ingenious idea called the Ground Fridge eliminates the need for electricity to keep products cool by using the insulating and cooling effects of being in the ground. This is how it works: The spherical Ground Fridge is buried in the earth and covered with a layer of soil that is about one metre thick. This natural insulation keeps the temperature inside the fridge very stable throughout the year at between 10 and 12°C. This is ideal for the storage of fruits, vegetables, wine and cheese. It has a capacity of 3,000 litres, which means it can hold about 500 kg of fresh food. This is the equivalent [...]

Ocean plastic cleaner

By Michelle Robertson

A huge clean-up machine is heading on a mission to start collecting the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that are floating in the Pacific Ocean halfway between California and Hawaii. With around 79,000 tons of plastic to tackle in the area now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the incredible Ocean Cleanup system uses a combination of huge floating nets (called “screens”) held in place by giant tubes which are designed to suck stubborn waste out of the water. Once this happens the debris is then transferred to large ships which take it to shore for recycling.How [...]

Renewable energy record in Costa Rica

By Jinny Throup

Costa Rica is making great strides when it comes to clean energy. This small Central American country recently managed to run for 300 days using 100% renewable sources: hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar. The government is following a ten year plan to become carbon neutral by 2021, and this latest milestone follows previous impressive achievements. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity claims that improvements to the grid and upgrades to various clean energy power plants are key to helping them reach their goals. The country is fortunate that it has an abundance of natural energy sources [...]

Trash turned into electricity in Ethiopia

By Jinny Throup

The largest rubbish dump in Ethiopia has been converted into a new waste-to-energy plant that converts trash into electricity. The first of its kind in Africa, the Reppie Project is the result of a partnership between the Government of Ethiopia and a consortium of international companies. The plant, which is located in the country’s capital Addis Ababa, will incinerate 1,400 tonnes of trash per day, which represents about 80% of the waste generated by the city. The trash is burned in a combustion chamber, and the heat produced creates steam which drives a turbine generator. It produces enough [...]

Zero waste for a cleaner planet

By Jinny Throup

The Zero Waste Movement aims fora more sustainable society by promoting a‘circular economy’ where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for another use.An example of this trend is a store in Victoria, Canada which is thatcity’s first completely zero waste shop.Their goal is to promote a lifestyle that is free of packages and plastics, while offering local products that are organic. Customers can either bring their own empty containers, or use glass bottles provided by the store; they then fill them with the products of their choice. Many of the health food stores here on Ibiza [...]

A car made from hemp

By Jerry Brownstein

More and more people are starting to wake up to the many uses of hemp, and one man has built a sports car that shows the value of this forgotten natural asset. Bruce Dietzen from Florida (US), is the mastermind behind this green machine, and he hopes that his environmentally friendly car will ‘weed out’ the taboo that surrounds the cannabis hemp plant. Hemp has none of the psychoactive effects of its cousin marijuana, yet as Dietzen says, “Hemp is still considered a dangerous drug according to the (US) government. It’s considered as dangerous as heroin or cocaine – that’s insane!”The body [...]

Training crows to pick up trash

By Michelle Robertson

A Dutch start-up company called Entitled Crowded Cities, has come up with an ingenious idea to get our feathered friends to help clean up urban areas. It is estimated that there are 4.5 trillion (4,500,000,000,000!) non-biodegradable cigarette filters littering the cities of the world. This company is training crows to recognize and pick up cigarette butts from streets and green areas in return for a reward. When the crows drop thelitter into a specially designed 'Crowbar', a camera examines the item to confirm that it is actually a cigarette butt. The birds are thengiven somefood which reinforcestheir [...]

Biodegradable packaging from mushrooms

By Jinny Throup

The Swedish furniture retailer Ikea plans to use mushroom-based packaging as part of its efforts to reduce waste and increase recycling. Aware of the environmental devastation that polystyrene creates, the company wants to be part of the solution by introducing biodegradable eco-friendly mycelium “fungi packaging”. Mycelium is the part of a fungus that effectively acts as its roots. It grows in a mass of branched fibres which attach themselves to the soil or whatever surface the fungus is growing on. Known as Mushroom Packaging, and developed by the US company Ecovative, this alternative to Styrofoam [...]

Spain phasing out plastic bags

By Jerry Brownstein

Since 1 July, 2018, all shops in Spain are obligated to charge customers if they ask for plastic bags. The stores are free to set the price they wish, although the government recommends between five to 15 cents depending upon size, thickness and composition of the bag. Very lightweight bags are recommended to be sold at the least expensive price, because they break down more quickly and are cheaper to recycle. Carrier bags can only be given out free of charge if they are completely necessary for hygiene reasons - such as the small plastic bags for fish or for loose products sold by weight. All [...]

Ireland bans fracking

By Michelle Robertson

Ireland has joined the growing list of countries which have decided to ban oil and gas exploration by hydraulic fracturing – the procedure known widely as ‘fracking’. This controversial drilling method of extracting petrochemicals from shale rock has been linked to contaminated water supplies, increased earthquakes and serious air pollution. Following in the footsteps of France, Scotland, Germany and others, Ireland has decided to ban this dangerous procedure.Tony McLoughlin of the Irish Parliament commented: “This law will mean that communities in the West and Northwest [...]

First plastic-free supermarket in Spain

By Carmen Loren

According to a report by the World Bank, more than 3.5 million tons of waste are produced every day, and a large amount of this is plastic that goes into the seas and rivers of our planet. This problem has spawned movements like "Zero Waste" that propose simple rules to reduce our garbage production. Thanks to this movement, new businesses are emerging that seek to minimize the problem by creating sustainable awareness. One of these is the "Yes Future” positive supermarket, which recently opened in Barcelona. It represents a new model of supermarket that offers only bulk products, and encourages [...]

Wild flowers as pesticide

By Jinny Throup

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is running a trial on 15 farms using wildflowers instead of chemicals to beat back pests in an effort to reduce pesticide spraying. These brightly coloured flowers are planted directly within the crops, in strips that are six metres wide and spaced 100m apart. The flowers are chosen because they support the natural predators of the pests that attack cereal crops. This allows beneficial insects such as hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ground beetles, to attack aphids and other pests throughout the fields. Other countries have also been experimenting [...]

Tesla electric semi truck

By Jerry Brownstein

Elon Musk is intent on bringing the future closer to the present, and he has been extremely successful in promoting solar energy, efficient space travel and electric transportation. It seems like he unveils a new creation every month, and one of his latest is the Tesla electric semi truck which he plans to start delivering in 2019. Here are some of the design and performance features that it promises:- 20% less expensive to operate than diesel (and 50% less when driven in convoy).- Range of 800 km on one battery charge.- Zero to 100kph in just [...]

The 'Sea Bin' collects plastic debris

By Michelle Robertson

A new invention has been installed in the waters of several European ports to help fight the growing problem of plastic pollution. This ingenious way to help remove tons of rubbish is called Sea Bin, and it collects and disposes of all manner of debris including bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts. Each unit has a capacity of up to 12 kg per day, which means it can collect the equivalent of 20,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags every year. Two Australian inventors, Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, created this device to be more efficient than existing solutions. Most harbour [...]

California targets 100% renewable energy

By Jinny Throup

California may be setting an ambitious target to completely abandon fossil fuels by 2045. The state Senate passed a bill that aims for 100% renewable energy, and if it becomes law California, would have less than 30 years to transition away from natural gas and other fossil fuels for the production of electricity. Already admired for its clean-energy leadership, California’s Senate is determined to set a strong example for other states to follow. The bill next moves to the California Assembly where it needs to pass for final approval. 

Madrid launches 100% electric buses

By Carmen Loren

The Madrid City Council government of Manuela Carmena wants to reduce pollution by replacing old buses with more than 70 zero emission buses. The first of these EMT 100% electric buses was recently put into service. This new fleet of five buses does not emit any polluting gases, and they run silently. The buses are re-charged by an innovative induction system that does not need cables or plug-ins. The batteries are charged by magnetic coils that are located in the lower part of the bus and in the road. A magnetic field is generated between the coils which produces a transmission of energy [...]

German cities try free public transport

By Michelle Robertson

Combating air pollution by dramatically reducing the number of private cars is the main purpose of a radical new proposal to make public transport free in some of Germany’s biggest cities. “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further delays is of the highest priority for Germany,” according to environment minister Barbara Hendricks. This plan was spurred by Germany’s resolve to meet new air pollution levels that have been set by the EU.Even the major car manufacturers - including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen - have agreed support this plan. Together they [...]

California boosts home solar energy

By Carmen Loren

The state of California (US) has approved a historic law that will require newly constructed houses to incorporate photovoltaic panels to provide electricity. In addition, all new homes must meet certain standards of thermal insulation, efficiency of appliances and increased capacity for the batteries that store the energy generated by the solar panels. According to experts in the field, this law will save energy, lower utility bills, keep homes comfortable and reduce pollution. The estimated cost to adapt these measures to a new building will be around $10,000, which would be offset by savings [...]

Plastic bags that are 100% eco-friendly

By Jinny Throup

A company based in Bangalore, India has developed shopping bags that look like plastic but are, in fact 100% organic, biodegradable and eco-friendly. These ‘EnviGreen’ bags are made with natural ingredients that include potatoes, tapioca, corn, vegetable oil, and bananas. The raw materials, which are sourced from local farmers, are first converted into liquid form. They then undergo a six-step procedure to produce the end result. Absolutely no chemicals are used, and even the paint on the printing of the bags is natural and organic. The bags take less than 180 days to biodegrade naturally [...]

Elevated e-bike cycleways

By Michelle Robertson

Streamlining two-wheel traffic to an elevated cycleway in city centres is the vision of a project which could serve as a model for cleaner commuting that eases both congestion and emissions. BMW came up with this alternative to banning cars from increasingly crowded cities. It is an elevated cycleway with a roof, solar panels, climate control and even a rainwater collection system. They call it the BMW Vision E³ Way, and the triple E in the name highlights that these cycleways are Elevated, Electric, and Efficient.Markus Seidel, head of the BMW Technology Office, explained that [...]

High tech ‘CityTrees’ clean the air

By Michelle Robertson

A breath of fresh air in a crowded city could come from devices that provide the environmental benefits of a small forest in areas where space is extremely limited. It’s called the ‘CityTree’ - a freestanding vertical unit that is covered in moss and lichens, with a huge surface area to absorb harmful pollutants, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. The creators from the company Green City Solutions explain that each of these CityTrees has the environmental benefits of 275 trees, but takes up 99% less space and can be installed for only 5% of the cost of planting trees.Each unit [...]

Plastic-free shopping aisle

By Jinny Throup

Europe’s first plastic-free shopping aisle has been installed in the Amsterdam branch of the Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza. The move comes amid growing global concern about the damage plastic waste is causing on oceans, habitats and food chains. Sian Sutherland is the co-founder of the environmental group called ‘A Plastic Planet’, which supports plastic-free shopping initiatives. She says, “There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic. Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a [...]

Cities becoming more sustainable

By María Vila Rebolo

Many of our cities are changing for the better. Recent reports show that more than 100 cities around the world – from Auckland, New Zealand to Nairobi, Kenya – get at least 70% of their electricity from clean energy. Even more impressive is the fact that 40 of these municipalities are powered 100% from renewable sources. Five of these cities are in the United States, including Burlington, Vermont, which was the first to obtain all of its electricity through a combination of biomass from local wood, hydropower, wind and solar energy. In the UK, there are 84 urban centers and towns that have joined [...]

Norway bans fur farms

By Michelle Robertson

Animal rights activists are overjoyed at the news that all fox and mink farms in Norway will be closed in 2018. This action has been hailed as “a fantastic victory” for the movement to protect animal rights in Europe. Norway will become the 14th country in Europe to implement such a ban, but the first in the Nordic region which has always been a major source of animal fur. While the plans to completely phase out the farms will take some time, there’s already been a massive decrease in recent years. Norway's economy used to rely heavily on the fur industry, and at one point there were around 20,000 [...]

Gucci goes fur-free

By Jerry Brownstein

The Italian fashion company Gucci has announced that they will no longer be using animal fur in their products - effective starting with its spring-summer 2018 collection. Furthermore, all of their remaining fur products will be sold at a charity auction to benefit the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and LAV, the Italian animal protection organization. Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s President and CEO, said: “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals. With the help of HSUS and LAV, Gucci is excited [...]

Trees in the Amazon make their own rain

By Jerry Brownstein

Scientists have always been puzzled by the fact that the rainy season in the Amazon begins two or three months before the other regions of Latin America. Now a team of researchers at the University of California believe that they have the answer: these trees make their own rain. It is done through transpiration, which is a well-known part of photosynthesis that starts when moisture is drawn up through a plant’s roots. It then gathers on the leaves and eventually evaporates into the atmosphere. These scientists believe that in the Amazon rainforest this process goes one step further. They [...]

Growing hemp on Ibiza

By Carmen Loren

Hemp is a plant that has multiple beneficial uses which have unfortunately been forgotten for many years. The confusion that exists between this vegetable and marijuana is what has caused us to lose the many uses of this valuable resource. One example is hemp seeds which are considered a superfood, and are an excellent source of protein for vegan diets. In addition, hemp has many uses in cosmetics, medicine and industry. You can also extract from this plant a very high quality natural fiber with strong resistance that can be a substitute for polluting plastic.Given all of this, Casita [...]

Shipping containers become homes

By Michelle Robertson

A great solution for putting a roof over the heads of homeless people comes from the transformation of shipping containers that would otherwise by lying empty. This idea has been pioneered in the UK by the social enterprise Help Bristol’s Homeless (HBH). They convert the containers into small self-contained units with a bathroom (including a hot shower), a basic kitchen and a futon bed. They are designed to be used as a safe, short-term emergency accommodation until permanent homes can be found. Jasper Thompson is the founder of HBH, and he was aided in this project by members of the homeless [...]

Sweden to be 100% renewable

By Michelle Robertson

Sweden is setting out to become fossil-free and running completely on renewable energy by 2040. With 57% of its resources in 2016 coming from hydropower, wind and other natural sources, the country is well on target to meeting its goal. Part of their plan includes tapping into the huge potential of land-based wind power, and eventually phasing out all nuclear power plants. The country’s Director of General Energy recently commented: "Nuclear is quite an expensive energy source due to safety regulations and funding for long-term nuclear waste management among other things. On the other hand, renewables [...]

A truly eco-friendly house in Ibiza

By Carmen Loren

One of the world’s most energy efficient houses has recently been constructed right here on Ibiza. It is located in the San Lorenzo area, and has been awarded the coveted Premium Passivhaus energy certificate. This exclusive designation is only given to buildings that meet the most demanding construction standards, and are powered entirely by renewable energies. This fascinating house was built by the Ibiza company Terravita in the record time of just eight months, using sustainable materials to minimise the carbon footprint.The house covers an area of 210 square [...]

World’s biggest indoor vertical farm

By Jerry Brownstein

AeroFarms aims to grow two million kilos of fresh food per year in its 8,000 square meter facility near New York City. Their all-season growth works with specialized LED lights and climate controls – all without the need for sunlight or soil. “We use aeroponics to mist the roots of our greens with nutrients, water, and oxygen,” explains AeroFarms’ director. “Our system uses 95% less water than field farming, 40% less than hydroponics, and zero pesticides.”The farm’s proximity to the New York Metropolitan area minimizes transportation costs to this large urban market. AeroFarms has big [...]

World’s largest wind farm in Scotland

By Michelle Robertson

The world’s largest floating wind farm has been built in the waters around Scotland. The Norwegian energy company Statoil will develop a flotilla of five large turbines about 25 km off the Scottish coast. The UK is ‘blowing every other country out the water’ with Northern Europe’s largest offshore wind capacity. Germany is working hard to catch up to the UK, while Japan, China and the US are also focusing heavily on how they can harness the huge potential of power from wind farms built on the water.Due to improved technology, offshore wind farms have become an economically [...]

Italy’s food waste law

By Michelle Robertson

The country most famous for its incredible cuisine approved in 2016 a law making it much easier for excess food to be donated to those who need it most.In a bid to reduce a whopping 5.1m tonnes of wasted food every year, a law was recently passed in the Italian Senate that focuses on incentives which make it easier for companies to give excess foodstuffs to charity.This law comes just six months after a similar bill was passed in France, so there appears to be great momentum for solving the problems of wasted food.The Italian law makes significant changes in previous legislation, [...]

Ban on ivory sales protects elephants

By Jane Charilaou

In a very positive turn of events, the endangered African elephant has received a much needed reprieve that will greatly help the much-loved mammal’s prospects of survival and well-being. The announcement comes from Hong Kong which has proposed a complete ban on the sale of ivory. Hong Kong is the centre of this lucrative trade that sees the tragic and often illegal poaching and killing of elephants for their valuable teeth and tusks. Ivory has been used widely for jewellery, carvings, piano keys and even snooker balls - it is also a prized ingredient in many dubious potions designed for human [...]

Sunflower shaped solar panels

By Javier Alcaraz

James Cameron, the famous director of Avatar and other popular movies, has been promoting the use of solar energy for years. As a matter of fact Avatar, one of the highest-grossing movies in cinema history, was completely filmed with solar energy. Now this American filmmaker has gone a step further by creating attractive solar panel structures in the shape of sunflowers. They are designed to rotate automatically following the path of the sun, allowing them to produce higher amounts of photovoltaic energy than standard panels.The use of the sunflower shape in solar panels had been tried [...]

Arctic drilling is abandoned by Shell

By Jane Charilaou

After years of controversial drilling to look for fossil fuels in one of the planet’s last remaining unspoiled environments, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell has finally abandoned its search in Alaska’s Arctic, “for the foreseeable future.” The official decision to pull out of the Arctic was said to have been made due to a combination of factors. Reasons cited included the high costs associated with drilling in such a harsh environment, the disappointing results from surveys made so far in the Chukchi Sea and “The challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.” [...]

EU countries are allowed to ban all GM Crops

By Jerry Brownstein

Scotland and Germany have become the first countries to use a new EU directive that allows them to completely ban genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops within their borders. Under the old rules the EU decided which GM crops would be formally authorised to be cultivated in the entire EU geographical area. This new directive, which came into force earlier this year, gives each Member State the right to restrict or ban the cultivation of genetically modified foods within their own territory.Scotland was the first region to take advantage of this rule. They were soon followed by Germany, [...]

Japan’s floating solar stations

By Michelle Robertson

As a result of Japan’s nuclear disaster, solar power is fast becoming the favourite form of sustainable energy in that country. Their aim is to double the amount of renewable energy output by 2030, and a large part of that plan rests on huge solar installations that are built on water. Two of these new floating stations are already functioning and they each generate enough electricity to power 900 households. Plans are being laid for a much bigger solar power station to be built on water just east of Tokyo. It will be the largest system of its kind on Earth, and this “mega-plant” could power a [...]

Fracking: Blessing or Curse

By Jerry Brownstein

There is a great debate going on about drilling for oil and gas using the technique called hydraulic fracturing – popularly known as “fracking”. Supporters of this technology point to how it has transformed the US energy market by dramatically increasing their domestic supply of oil and natural gas. This has led to much lower prices, while boosting the economy and creating many new jobs. On the other hand, opponents of fracking are concerned about the numerous environmental problems that arise from this type of exploitation. Opposition by the global green community has been unanimous, and [...]

A Spanish island with 100% renewable energy

By Jerry Brownstein

El Hierro, which is the smallest and most southerly of the Canary Islands, will soon become the first totally energy self-sufficient island in the world. Its population of around 12,000 people – who had previously always relied on diesel generators to produce their electricity – have now invested in new energy technology that is clean, sustainable and much less expensive.This new system is called ‘Gorona del Viento’, and it is an innovative combination of wind and hydroelectric power. Most of the time its five large windmills will provide more than enough power for all of the island’s [...]

Open-Source seeds to help poor farmers

By Jerry Brownstein

A new initiative will help farmers overcome the intellectual property laws that deprive them of quality seeds. Many farmers cannot afford the high prices charged for quality seeds by the giant multinational companies that control them. They end up using poor seeds that produce low yields and bad crops, and this contributes greatly to global poverty. The US-based Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), is one of several organisations that believe genetic resources – in the form of seeds – should be a common resource that anyone can use as they see fit. Recently they have released free seeds for 36 [...]

California law bans disposable plastic bags

By Jerry Brownstein

On 1st July, 2015, California became the first state to ban the use of disposable plastic bags. Several US cities and counties already have such laws in place, but this will be the first time that an entire state will take this important ecological step. Disposable plastic bags are rarely recycled and the vast majority of them end up in landfills or polluting the waterways and oceans.As part of this new law, stores will be required to take back all old bags from customers so that they can be recycled. The government will provide money to bag manufacturers so that they can retool their [...]