In 2019, the administration of the (now former) President of the United States attempted to relax restrictions on power plant greenhouse emissions. In a move that could only harm the environment, the administration’s EPA lawyers filed a lawsuit that argued that the federal government does not have the authority to set national restrictions on emissions or force states to do so.
In essence, the plan would repeal the Clean Power Plan set up by the Obama administration and allow power plants to operate without substantial regulation. As New York Attorney General Letitia James put it, this rule only “served to support dirty and expensive coal plants, undercut clean and sustainable electricity, and left New Yorkers and all other Americans to foot the bill.”
Although the rule was approved by the EPA in 2019, we’re here to tell you that the US court of appeals struck down the EPA’s industry-friendly climate rule this week. The court stated that the deregulatory plan was a “mistaken reading of the Clean Air Act,” and that the EPA “fundamentally has misconceived the law.”
With the current EPA rules invalidated, the new Biden administration has a clean slate and can introduce strong regulations on emissions from the power sector. That’s a big deal, especially when you consider that the Biden administration has promised to cut emissions from the power sector by 32 percent (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030.
Although the court failed to reinstate a 2015 Obama administration rule that forced utilities to move toward renewable energy sources, the good news is that the Biden administration will now be free to enact similar rules without having to enter a legal battle over the previous rules that favored deregulation.
The expectation is that we will soon see laws enacted that will force utility companies to shift to renewable sources. When such laws come into place, we will be sure to tell you.
According to the WHO, corneal damage from infections or inflammatory eye diseases is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, affecting around two million new patients every year. One possible way for patients with corneal blindness to regain their vision involves cornea transplants, but a shortage of donor tissue remains a big hurdle.
A recent medical development aims to overcome the problem of insufficient donors through a promising artificial type of corneal implant. Developed by a company called CorNeat, KPro is the first implant that can be integrated directly into the eyewall to replace damaged corneas without requiring any donor tissue.
As Engadget explains, while artificial cornea implants already exist for patients suffering from corneal blindness, because the surgeries are complex, they’re usually the last resort when transplants of cornea ring implants don’t work. By contrast, the CorNeat transplant is a relatively simple procedure that requires minimal stitching and cutting and takes no longer than an hour.
And the best thing about it? It has already restored the vision of its first inaugural patient — a legally blind 78-year old man who, immediately after surgery, was able to once again distinguish his family members and read numbers on an eye chart.
Currently, ten more patients are approved for trials in Israel, and the company plans to open two more this month in Canada, with six others in the approval process in France, the US, and the Netherlands.
The collapse of the coal industry may be good news for the environment, but for towns in the Appalachian mountains that have long relied on coal, it’s been disastrous for the economy and eliminated thousands of jobs. The good news is that we’ve seen a number of green-minded initiatives spring up in the region to bring back work for locals, from adventure tourism to beekeeping, both of which we’ve written about.
In a similar light, a new startup called AppHarvest is now running a massive state-of-the-art indoor farm near the small eastern Kentucky town of Morehead. The first harvest of sustainably-produced tomatoes is already being prepared for shipment across the country, with AppHarvest hoping to prove a new model for making agriculture eco-friendly while bringing new jobs to coal country.
Unlike most indoor farms that rely on LEDs to make plants grow, the 2.76-million-square-foot facility is designed to harness the most natural light possible in order to save energy. In addition, the farm uses far less land than traditional farms, and far less water, thanks to its hydroponic system that doesn’t rely on the soil. Not to mention that the water that is used is filtered from rainwater captured and stored on site.
Another aspect that makes the AppHarvest model more sustainable is simply its location. While tomatoes are often trucked to the East Coast from California or Mexico, Kentucky’s central location shrinks the carbon footprint of delivery.
Although we don’t have numbers regarding how many people AppHarvest employs, their goal of producing as many as 45 million pounds of tomatoes a year indicates that they need quite a lot of workers. On top of that, the startup is currently building two more farms in the state and has plans to add a dozen indoor farms in Kentucky and other parts of Appalachia by 2025.
With the coal industry fading, it’s promising to see sustainable agriculture come in and provide new jobs in a region that truly needs it.
The French central bank is looking towards a greener future with the announcement that it will divest from coal and limit gas and oil investments in its portfolio by 2024.
The Bank of France, which manages 22 billion euros, will no longer invest in companies that generate more than 2 percent of their revenues from coal by the end of 2021 and will drop this threshold to zero percent by 2024. Its current threshold for coal investments is 10 percent. It will also drop companies with more than 10 percent of revenue coming from oil or 50 percent from gas.
The bank had previously already committed to dropping companies that generate more than 10 percent of revenue from shale oil or gas, tar sands, or exploration in the Arctic or deep water.
Other banking entities have made similar green pledges this year. New York announced last month that it will divest its $226 billion pension fund from fossil fuels. The new policy will force many companies to adjust their fossil fuel relations and could prompt the bank to drop major energy companies like Total.
The office job has long caused many people to live a sedentary life, but in the remote working era, more people are spending more of their waking hours sitting than ever before. Without the daily commute to work or the walk around town to find a good place to eat lunch, it’s easy for people to go the whole day without any substantial movement.
That’s no Bueno.
If you find yourself sitting too much throughout the day, here are three ways to get more active while working from home.
Stand up and move while working: Replacing just two hours of sitting each day with standing can burn up to 130 calories a week, but that’s not the only benefit. Standing can also boost concentration, and may also improve glucose, insulin levels, and blood pressure in the long term. Interestingly enough, research has also found that fidgety movements such as foot-tapping or position shifting can help you burn more calories while sitting by increasing energy expenditure by 5 to 10 percent. Simply put, any activity is better than just sitting.
Take “exercise snacks”: We tend to think of exercise as something that lasts longer than ten minutes, but the reality is that activity of any duration is good for our health—as recent research indicated. That’s why you should enjoy some “exercise snacks,” which are just short bursts of exercise that you can pepper into your day. It could be as simple as climbing up and down the stairs or doing a round of pushups after filling your teacup in the kitchen. Whatever it may be, just remember that even a short burst of exercise can benefit your body and mind.
Exercise at lunchtime (outdoors if possible): More and more research shows us that going outside to exercise during the day in natural settings can benefit our mental health and cognitive ability. If you are fortunate enough to live near easily accessible natural environments, try to get out in the fresh air during lunch for a short walk or run. And if you can’t, it will still be worth your while to do some exercise indoors during lunch.
With all the unavoidable necessities of modern life and their associated environmental impacts, living a truly sustainable lifestyle may seem like an impossible undertaking. A newly launched startup would beg to differ.
Enter Treepoints, a new app that gives users reward points for offsetting their carbon footprint, by investing in projects that counterbalance environmentally unfriendly lifestyle practices, such as plane travel and meat-heavy diets.
“The only way to get to [carbon] zero and beyond is to couple behavior changes with active offsetting,” says Anthony Collias, one of the two co-founders. The app’s rewards scheme works like “air miles, but for helping the planet rather than hurting it,” Collias explains.
By signing up to one of the service’s three subscription plans — priced based on how much carbon one wishes to offset — users automatically fund UN-certified sustainable projects across the world.
Current projects include generating renewable energy for regions in Honduras and India, as well as capturing methane waste in Istanbul and using the greenhouse gas to power turbines for electricity. The latter project is expected to help the Turkish capital prevent more than 800,000 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere every year.
According to the founders, their business allows people who are environmentally conscious, but who don’t necessarily have the motivation or knowhow to decipher where exactly to cut emissions, to ensure they’re making a difference.
Drug-resistant bacteria are a growing challenge for the medical community, but choosing effective antibiotics right off the bat can reduce the growth of these bacteria and help patients recover more quickly from illness. Fortunately, researchers from universities and hospitals across Europe have developed a tool to more quickly identify the most appropriate antibiotic combination for any given infection.
The researchers used new technology to screen clinical multi-resistant bacterial strains for optimal antibiotic combinations. This is so important because bacteria might not be responsive to one antibiotic or another, but together the treatment is highly effective. Unfortunately, finding this key combination is often a process of trial and error. Using the new microcalorimetry technique, scientists can detect heat generation from very small amounts of live bacteria, allowing them to screen a large number of potential antibiotic combinations in a short amount of time to find the ideal candidates.
Although clinical trials must be completed to bring this technique to scale, the method has been highly successful thus far in animal models. We look forward to seeing how this medical solution progresses and helps address antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Dr. Rachel Levine, the current secretary of health in Pennsylvania, is leading the fight against Covid-19 in the state. She will take on an even bigger public health leadership role and break down barriers as the newly-nominated assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Once confirmed, Dr. Levine will be the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation. After attending Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, she began her career as a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. Dr. Levine was unanimously endorsed as Pennsylvania’s physician general before rising to the role of state secretary of health.
Dr. Levine will take on the role of the assistant secretary for health during one of the most trying periods of public health history. In an interview with NPR, Dr. Levine said that although vaccines do not offer a quick fix to the pandemic, “It will be essential for the federal government to provide more funding to the states, territories, and cities that will be tasked with administering the vaccine.”
In addition to taking an active role in preventing the spread of covid-19, Dr. Levine also brings a unique perspective on inclusivity to her role. Transgender individuals face high levels of discrimination in health care, so the nomination of a transgender health official opens the door for more optimal care for these communities and also demonstrates that positions of leadership are meant for all, regardless of gender.
Image source: Philly Voice
If you’re the type who loves sharing their home with plants, there probably was a time when you’ve found yourself with a struggling green companion, and couldn’t necessarily tell what the exact problem was. Was it too much water? Or too much sun? Was the relative humidity too high? Or was the air too dry?
A new startup has developed a smart pot that can answer all these questions and ensure that your plant stays well and healthy. Called the Wázai 2.0, the smart plant pot comes with its own monitoring app that monitors and provides real-time information about your plant’s needs. This includes monitoring whether it gets enough sunlight or how often the plant gets watered.
“Unlike other automatic watering pots, Wázai doesn’t water on a set schedule but will adjust its watering frequency according to the soil moisture rate, making sure your plant gets what they need,” notes the product’s Kickstarter page.
Aided by smart sensors, the pot also includes a 1.8-liter water tank and sends you notifications when the tank needs refilling. On top of that, it features a vacation mode which allows the app to more carefully regulate the water to keep your plant alive while you’re gone.
Equipped with a giant plant database, the app knows the specific water and light needs for more than 80 different types of plants. And the pot, which is powered by four AA batteries, can be kept both inside and outside the house.
In the culinary world, a Michelin star is the ultimate award for excellence in cooking. A vegan restaurant in southern France has claimed the honor of being the first plant-based restaurant to win the prestigious recognition.
The restaurant’s name, ONA, stands for Origine Non Animale. Run by Claire Vallee, the restaurant launched in 2016 in the city of Ares, near Bordeaux, with seven innovative vegan dishes. ONA features interesting vegan ingredients like pine, boletus mushroom, sake, celery, and amber ale.
Vallee used crowdfunding to support her endeavor after she was denied a bank loan due to the uncertainty of demand for vegan cuisine. Fortunately, plant-based diets have continued to gain popularity for their environmental and health benefits.
Vallee told The Guardian that vegan cooking is “difficult and innovative,” but this star “goes to show that nothing is impossible.” The restaurant was also awarded a green star, an award introduced last year by Michelin for excellence in ethical practices.
This star for ONA goes to show that vegan cooking can attain the same standards of excellence and deliciousness as their meat-serving competitors. Hopefully, this new award will encourage more people to experiment with plant-based diets and inspire more chefs to incorporate plant-based recipes into their menus.
Image source: Mint Lounge