If you have a hankering for a roasted hot dog but you don’t have any fire, and you left your solar oven behind, you might still be in luck, assuming you have an empty can of Pringles laying around. This quick and easy DIY will show you how to re-use the empty can to heat a hot dog (or anything else you can skewer) up to 170 degrees in the sun.
Here in California we’re entering our fourth consecuitive drought year. The snowpack in the Sierras was a dismal 2% of where it should have been last time I checked, and the swimming holes in my favorite spot, the Yuba River, will most likely be puddles. With so much of our drinking water coming from natural springs and relying on the snowmelt each winter to replenish reservoirs, we need to find alternative ways to get these resources.
One promising technology comes in the form of desalination. Several large facilities exist in CA and elsewhere around the world, but they’re incredibly expensive and not all that efficient. What about your everyday civilian who wants to do the same? Options are limited thus far, but this solar powered device engineered by some brilliant minds at MIT just won the 2015 Desal Prize, a competition ran by USAID that aims to bring water solutions to developing countries. Desalination is especially important for these areas, as indicated here
It works by using solar panels to capture energy that’s stored in a bank of batteries that power an electrodialysis machine which removes salt from water.
For those of us who aren’t electrodialysis experts:
“Electrodialysis works by passing a stream of water between two electrodes with opposite charges. Because the salt dissolved in water consists of positive and negative ions, the electrodes pull the ions out of the water, Winter says, leaving fresher water at the centre of the flow. A series of membranes separate the freshwater stream from increasingly salty ones.”
Washing clothes by hand is difficult, time-consuming work. But then, getting a standard washing machine to run off solar panels is pretty difficult too. So aside from trips to the local Laundromat, hand washing, tiresome as it is, has been the best option for many people who live off-grid.
Now Canadian company YiREGO is looking to change that with a 5-liter foot-powered device that looks a little like a high-tech wastebasket. The size means you can’t wash very many clothes at once, so it wouldn’t work for a family, but for someone living by herself it could probably save a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately it won’t ship until July of 2016, but you can pre-order now to lock in an introductory price of $129.
Speaking to the UK newspaper The Independent last month, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant made some remarks that are just as hard to swallow as the company’s gene engineered food crops.
For one thing, he blamed the widespread public opposition to eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on lack of attention to marketing during the rollout of the technology. Never mind that other new technologies launched without coordinated marketing campaigns have done just fine as far as public opinion goes. (Cell phones, anybody? The Internet?) Never mind the numerous perfectly legitimate concerns about tampering with the DNA of what we eat. No, obviously the ad agency’s fault.
Grant’s probably not too bothered by anti-GMO consumer advocates, though, because he doesn’t believe that people have any choice but to eat Monsanto products. “Can you [feed the world’s increasing population] without biotech? I don’t think so,” he said. “If not this, then what? How are we going to crack this thing? If Monsanto and this entire industry did not exist then what would the alternative look like?”
Well, maybe Hugh can’t figure it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Let’s help him out a little bit here. Farmers in many parts of the world are still using traditional agricultural methods that are surprisingly congruent with the modern concept of permaculture. Intercropping, organic pest control, soil conservation, and other sustainable practices all feature prominently.
All well and good, Grant might say, but it’ll never produce enough food to feed nine billion people. But in that case he’d be on the wrong side of a comprehensive 30-year study by the Rodale Institute comparing the effectiveness of organic versus chemical agriculture. Rodale found that organic farming produced at least as much – and in many cases more – food as modern industrial methods. Their conclusion was that “organic farming is better equipped to feed us . . . it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”
How do you like them apples, Mr. Grant?
France just wrote a new page in their law book that other countries would be keen to follow. As of this past March, they require any new commercial building to have a green “living” roof or be equipped with solar panels. The aim is to reduce the amount of energy consumed, as green roofs provide better insulation, keeping the building cool in the summer and warmer in the winter months.
In addition, green roofs help promote biodiversity in urban environments, attracting birds and other animals that might otherwise become displaced. An added benefit is the plants retain water, thus reducing runoff and lessening the use of drainage systems.
The push for this change came from environmentalist groups in the country, and was backed by the socialist government. Initially they hoped to require all new buildings to have green roofs, but that seemed like burden on businesses and they opted to require only commercial spaces in the law, with a caveat that solar panels could also be used. As green and “living” roofs become more popular around the world we hope to see this sort of thing grow on people.
In a move taken straight from the Jesus miracle playbook, Audi has successfully converted water and carbon dioxide into an ethanol diesel fuel they call “e-liquid”. The breakthrough isn’t actually a new process, and the German automaker uses the Fischer-Tropsch process which has been known by scientists since the 1920s, but the context of this announcement makes for exciting news in today’s modern world where there’s a huge demand for clean, renewable fuel sources.
The breakthrough comes on the heels of a commissioning phase that lasted just four months. Audi teamed up with clean tech company Sunfire to develop the fuel in a Dresden facility. To demonstrate its suitability for everyday use, Federal Minister of Education and Research Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka put the first five liters into her official car, an Audi A8 3.0 TDI clean diesel quattro.
The breakthrough signals a big step toward developing cost-effective renewable fuel, and the announcement added they achieved a 70% efficiency in the process, a figure that’s surprisingly high. No word yet on what the next step will be, but we hope they can bring this to market at a fair price per gallon.