In a world’s first, a commercial hydrogen-powered cargo vessel will make its maiden voyage later this year. Developed by French shipowner Compagnie Fluvial Transport (CFT), the vessel will be the world’s first cargo ship to run on hydrogen and is set to be deployed on the river Seine in Paris.
The hydrogen cargo vessel will operate on compressed hydrogen produced from electrolysis, paving the way for more local zero-emission transport to be developed in the near future. Designed to only operate on inland water routes, the vessel will be tasked with moving goods on pallets and containers along Paris’s iconic urban river.
The boat has been developed as part of the European project Flagships, which aims to accelerate the development of zero-emission waterborne transport. The EU recognizes the decarbonization of the shipping industry as key to tackling climate change, so the union awarded the project $5.9m in funding in 2018.
“The demand for more sustainable technologies in inland waterway transport is on the rise,” said Matthieu Blanc, CFT Director. “As part of the Flagships project, we are happy to be leading the way on reducing emissions from transport and demonstrating the superior features of hydrogen fuel cells in waterborne applications.”
For those who experience “long Covid,” symptoms that long outlast the viral infection, loss of taste and smell is quite common, but doctors have concern over the impact this will have on people’s appetite and mental health. Fortunately, “smell therapy” is offering relief for some who have lost their sense of smell.
Long before the pandemic hit, a German doctor helped develop and standardize smell training for patients who experienced anosmia, loss of sense of smell, or even parosmia, a distorted sense of smell. The process is tedious but fairly simple. It involves sniffing four essential oils for 20 seconds every day for several months. Patients are encouraged to visualize memories associated with each scent as they smell.
The protocol for smell therapy was first tested on individuals with parosmia. Dr. Thomas Hummel asked 40 patients with a distorted sense of smell to follow the regimen and found that after 12 weeks, all participants regained at least some sense of smell, while those in the control group did not.
In the UK, a group called AbScent is helping bring smell therapy to a wider audience. The founder, Chrissi Kelly, lost her sense of smell after a viral infection in 2012, but when she went to explore smell therapy, she found very few resources available. AbScent now offers a four-scent guide to smell therapy and Kelly has created a Facebook group for Covid-19 patients experiencing anosmia to share their stories and access information.
Loss of smell associated with Covid-19 is perplexing to doctors because unlike colds or flus, which lead to loss of smell due to congestion, with the virus, patients can feel perfectly healthy and just lack all sense of smell. This sense is particularly complex because it relies on not only what your sensors pick up, but also how your brain interprets this information. And it’s easy for these wires to get crossed. Fortunately, groups like AbScent are helping spread awareness about smell therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for patients with long Covid.
Sunshine, coupled with windy weather over the Easter bank holiday has seen Great Britain’s electricity grid record its greenest day ever, with carbon intensity dropping to the lowest it’s ever been.
On Easter Monday, power plants in England, Scotland, and Wales emitted only 39g of CO2/kWh of electricity, according to National Grid’s electricity system operator. Solar farms and wind turbines generated 60 percent of all electricity as households enjoyed their holiday lunch.
The low-carbon energy surge, combined with low power demand during the period, kept gas-fired power in Great Britain to 10 percent of the electricity mix, prompting the lowest “carbon intensity” in the country’s electricity system since national records began in 1935.
Last month, solar and wind power made up 24 percent and 4 percent of the electricity mix respectively, while gas-fired power plants were responsible for 39 percent of Britain’s electricity generation. The carbon intensity was 185g of CO2/kWh in March but is expected to fall during the summer months as solar power plays a larger role in meeting the country’s energy needs.
As a result of coronavirus lockdowns, the UK’s electricity emissions have fallen sharply over the last year. And last month, the energy grid operator said demand for electricity remained five percent lower than usual despite the gradual reopening of the economy, indicating the industry’s steady transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewables.
We at The Optimist Daily have written about the many positive aspects of biking as a form of recreation and transport. If more communities chose to develop infrastructure that favors bicycles over cars, our world would be a safer, greener, and healthier place.
In fact, biking has grown in popularity since the commencement of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in Europe. Across the continent, there have been at least 1,000 km of cycle lanes created over the past year to meet the needs of the growing cyclist community.
For some who still have concerns about trading in their car for a bike, here are some green-tech innovations that just might convince you to become a cyclist.
Bikmo’s Bike Theft “Heat Map.” If you know an experienced cyclist, chances are they have had an encounter with bike thieves at least once. The lack of security that comes with parking your bike in a public space is a problem that cycling insurance innovators Bikmo are addressing with the launch of their new comprehensive heat map. The heat map helps bikers identify potential hotspots for reported thefts across England and Wales, as well as useful information on the safest places to leave your bike. To keep the map up-to-date, there is a month-by-month analysis of changes in your local area.
Vanmoof’s Trackable Bikes. This Amsterdam-based bicycle manufacturer offers high-tech e-bikes at an affordable price, with features that include rider recognition, pedal-powered charging, and theft defense through alarms.
Now, the company has announced that their S3 and XS models are compatible with Apple’s Find My network. Vanmoof cyclists will be able to sync their bikes to their device’s location services, which will open up possibilities for higher quality safety for cyclists, especially if they’re on routes outside of the city that aren’t as frequented.
Swapfiet’s electric rental expansion. Swapfiet’s green-focused rental scheme makes it easier to have regular access to cycling. Cyclists pay a monthly subscription for an electric bike that is delivered free, fully insured, and replaced almost immediately if it gets stolen or damaged.
Swapfiet has experienced such a surge in demand over the past couple of years that they’ve expanded their business to France, Belgium, and Italy.
Sustainable cycle-wear by Vaude. Switching to cycling for transport is an eco-friendly choice, but that doesn’t mean all aspects of bicycle culture are inherently sustainable. Take athletic wear, for instance. There are plenty of brands that design clothes specifically for cyclists that don’t make sustainability a priority.
If you want to ensure that your outfit matches your values, German mountain sports manufacturer Vaude has your back. Vaude makes affordable cycle wear that is good for people and the planet comprised of recycled or earth-based materials that are void of environmentally harmful fluorocarbons or PVC.
“Would you mind telling me how your name is pronounced?” It’s a simple question, but one that is skirted around by many people in both personal and professional settings. As awkward as it may seem to you, asking someone how their name is pronounced and learning the proper pronunciation yourself is not only a sign of respect but also an act of allyship.
Ruchika Tulshyan, the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy firm, explains in a Harvard Business Review article how her difficult-to-pronounce name has put her at a disadvantage in hiring processes and made her feel displaced and uncomfortable in professional settings. She also shares the story of how Arvind Narayanan, a Princeton computer science professor, recently wrote a Twitter thread detailing how his work was praised in the academic community, but avoidance of his name has led to him being excluded from teaching and research opportunities.
This pronunciation disadvantage begins early in Western society. A 2012 study found that mispronunciation of children’s names in the classroom affected their social-emotional well-being and their ability to learn.
To reduce these barriers and ease these encounters for both the pronouncer and individual, Tulshyan shares easy steps to overcoming pronunciation challenges in any setting:
- Ask them! The easiest way to learn the proper pronunciation of someone’s name is just to ask. The effort you’re displaying to understand and acknowledge someone’s identity is far more important than any awkwardness you may feel. Listen intently and practice repeating after them. If you need extra resources, check out these websites on name pronunciation.
- Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t comment on how difficult someone’s name is to pronounce or justify your inability to do so. Keep the process respectful and professional.
- Observe and practice. Listen to how others are properly pronouncing someone’s name for guidance and, if you know you will have an interaction with someone whose name you have trouble saying, practice it on your own before the situation arises.
- It’s okay to ask for clarification. If you forget or have trouble, it’s okay to ask for clarification once again, especially if it has been a while since you saw the person face-to-face.
- Acknowledge mispronunciation. If you realize you have been mispronouncing someone’s name, acknowledge it, apologize, and correct your pronunciation.
- Be an ally. If you hear someone else mispronouncing a colleague or friend’s name, gently offer up the correct pronunciation. This removes the burden from individuals who have spent their entire lives correcting other people’s pronunciation of their names.
Names are an inherent part of who we are and making an effort to properly pronounce people’s names, even when they’re outside of your common repertoire, is a critical skill for inclusion and equity. As Tulshyan explains, “Learning to pronounce a colleague’s name correctly is not just a common courtesy but it’s an important effort in creating an inclusive workplace, one that emphasizes psychological safety and belonging.”
A couple of months ago, we wrote an Optimist View about the value of investing in diversity. Now, there’s even more research to back the benefits of inclusion. A new report by BofA Global Research found that S&P 500 companies that are more diverse and inclusive see better performance and lower risk than their less diverse counterparts.
The research team used public workforce data and AI-driven datasets from Revelio Labs to come to their conclusion. They found that companies with at least 30 percent of women in management positions saw a bigger median improvement in annual return on equity. They also found that companies where at least 25 percent of executives were female saw consistently higher 1-year median return on equity dating all the way back to 2010.
This performance boost applies not only to gender diversity, but ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity as well. The study found that companies with ethnically and racially diversified workforces saw an eight percent increase in return on equity.
The reduction in earnings risk is even more stunning than the increase in profits. Companies with more women on their board than the median had a 50 percent reduction in earnings risk compared to less diverse boards.
Despite these clear benefits, only three S&P 500 companies have a board that’s made up of at least 40 percent of people of color, and less than a dozen S&P 500 companies have boards that are half women.
Hopefully, data like this will convince more corporate boards to embrace diversity and equity, but until then, California has proposed a bill that would mandate corporate diversity and Nasdaq is pushing to implement a diversity requirement for its listed companies.
Every year, more than eight tons of plastic waste end up polluting the oceans and destroying marine habitats. Figuring out where that plastic litter originates from is key to making a significant dent in this growing environmental crisis. A new app developed by scientists in Norway aims to do exactly that.
The new project, currently under development at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), plans to create a model that will show where plastic collects and find out where in the region it comes from.
Though the app is intended for clean-up crews, the developers also plan to make it available for beachgoers who could use it as they walk along the shoreline. Whenever they would come across a piece of plastic litter, they would take a picture of it and enter its GPS coordinates through the app.
The app would then access a visual database to identify what the object is and account for factors like ocean currents, tides, and weather patterns to estimate the ocean route that the item took before ending up in the sand.
If suspected sources of such waste are determined along that route, they may be paid a visit by local authorities. Particular hotspots of plastic litter accumulation would also be recorded and prioritized for clean-ups.
The current plan is to recruit 100 people to test the app during Norwegian ocean trash pickup projects. It should be ready for a roll-out to the public by next spring.
“Actions to clean up plastic don’t do much good if you don’t deal with the sources of the plastic at the same time,” says Christina Hellevik, who is working on the project. “It’s urgent to find the sources of the plastic, and to make good decisions.”
During the pandemic, cities closed off their streets to cars, turned unused parking garages into urban farms, and expanded bike lanes. These people-friendly modifications made cities more livable during a global pandemic, but many of them are here to stay as cities shift away from car-based infrastructure in favor of human-centered design.
The shift of public space away from streets and parking lots in favor of walking space, recreation areas, and green space is one change that appears to be here to stay. During the pandemic, Seattle launched its Stay Healthy Streets program, which upgraded more than 20 miles of neighborhood greenways and closed off streets to vehicles. Now, the city plans to keep this program alive even post-pandemic.
Across the country in Raleigh, North Carolina, the city transformed curbside parking spaces into short-term pick-up parking. There are now more than 200 of these zones in the city which allow patrons to stop in and support their favorite local shops without circling the block looking for parking. Long-term parking options are gone, but there is more street space for pedestrians and less traffic. The program was created during the pandemic, but now the city plans to make it permanent.
Housing is another big sector that has been permanently changed by the pandemic. 45 cities across the US instituted eviction moratoriums and 78 expanded utility assistance programs. Many cities, like Philadelphia, are keeping these programs alive for long-term housing security.
Cities also took more long-term approaches to housing the unsheltered. The pandemic encouraged many cities to realize that permanent housing solutions were a more ethical and cost-effective solution to homelessness. The City of Austin purchased a large hotel to turn into transitional housing and the program has been so successful, they’re planning to buy a second facility soon.
We’ve discussed how the pandemic is an opportunity to rethink and revamp our urban spaces to be more sustainable, equitable, and accessible. These are just some of the changes propagated by the pandemic that are improving our cities for the better in the long run.
We recently shared a story about a high schooler who developed infection-detecting sutures. Today, we’ve got another suture solution, but this time, gel sheathed sutures that can deliver drugs and prevent infection.
Developed by researchers at McGill University, the sutures, called tough gel sheathed (TGS) mimic human tendons and imitate the structure of soft connective tissues. Unlike conventional sutures, which are rough against already fragile tissue, TGS forms a slippery surface to reduce friction with surrounding tissues.
Jianyu Li, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department who participated in the development says, “This technology provides a versatile tool for advanced wound management. We believe it could be used to deliver drugs, prevent infections, or even monitor wounds with near-infrared imaging.”
Since the start of the pandemic, companies across different industries have shifted their production lines to help deliver PPE to hospitals and others in need. Among these companies is Ford which, over the last eight months, has delivered 120 million masks to communities with limited access to PPE.
So far Ford, in partnership with the United Auto Workers union, has delivered 22.5 million face shields, 50,000 ventilators, and 32,000 respirators to those in need. The company announced that it is also donating 20,000 air filtration kits to underserved communities to help prevent the spread of the virus.
More recently, the car manufacturer has been working with a number of nonprofit organizations on a public service announcement (PSA) to help combat vaccine misinformation.
“We’re so grateful for all of our philanthropic partners and the hundreds of Ford dealers nationwide who helped us in this incredible effort, but we’re not stopping there,” said Mary Culler, President of the Ford Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm. “We are proud to be partnering with leading organizations on a PSA to help raise awareness about the facts regarding the COVID vaccine.”
The PSA, called #VaxWithFacts, is available in both English and Spanish and aims to tackle the spread of vaccine misinformation in multicultural communities as part of Ford’s ‘finish strong initiative’ in the battle against COVID-19.