Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
November 19th, 2014

As a college student, I did my laundry more than most of my friends (and didn’t take it home to Mom at the end of the semester, either).   “Clean” water seems to be decreasing in supply – although there’s an abundance of the salty variety covering the planet.  We’ve come up with a bunch of de-salination methods that have been in the news.  This ‘fresh’ water is being used in many applications – farming, animal husbandry, drinking water for humans…

But what if we just decreased CONSUMPTION of the water that IS available? Or in any case, used the supply more efficiently?  Here’s a look at technology that aims to minimize the amount of water being used for the laundering of fabrics.  Although it’s not strictly new tech, having been around for several years, it is being used with greater frequency in industrial applications and may be available for household consumers in the near future.

Scientists develop waterless washing machines


Almost waterless washing could come to American homes


Read about one company that is on the manufacturing end of things:   Polymer beads  Maybe you’ll be inspired to go them one better?  (Or at least do some of that laundry that you’ve been piling up?)


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November 17th, 2014

Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past.  Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.  Is there work that you are engaged in that could help mitigate the effects of our world turning ‘upside down’???


Earth’s Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen

Sooner Than Expected


Schematic illustration of Earth's magnetic field. Credit/Copyright: Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh

Schematic illustration of Earth’s magnetic field. Credit/Copyright: Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh


Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere.  The Swarm satellites not only pick up signals coming from the Earth’s magnetic field, but also from its core, mantle, crust and oceans.

Here is some additional information on the topic from the British Geological Survey site that you may find helpful: Reversals: Magnetic Flip

And some amazing detail from NASA:  Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All The (Geologic) Time

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Are pesticides really helpful to producing more strawberries? Researchers are trying to find out.

The projected is funded by a $172,663 USDA specialty crop block grant administered by Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, led by Cecilia Nunes, an assistant professor in USF’s department of cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology. This project initially made headlines in December, 2013. This initiative is still underway, and it will continue for an estimated 2 years.

She is working with Natalia Peres of UF’s Gulf Coast Research Center, where initial research on the reduced use of pesticides by strawberry growers was already underway. Nunes and Peres are working with a Florida grower to produce side by side strawberry crops – one grown with the customary levels of pesticides, the other reduced by 50 percent.

The project is still underway, so there is no definitive conclusion. The important part, however, is the question this research is trying to answer. Researchers want to know what change in already applied methods may be a positive one in the future of farming. For example, the reduction of pesticides may allow for more or equal strawberry production. In that case, farmers will have the information they need to safely move ahead with safer practices for the environment and their own bottom line. Farmers use pesticides to kill pests, and the potential problem farmers face is using too little of the pesticides they currently use. This study will provide critical data for strawberry farmers, if reducing pesticide utilization actually doesn’t change the outcome farmers want to see.

Read more here

Are pesticides really helpful to producing more strawberries? Researchers are trying to find out.

Are pesticides really helpful to producing more strawberries? Researchers are trying to find out.

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November 16th, 2014

You may have heard that the Monarch butterfly is endangered.  I fondly remember seeing many of these beautiful creatures while growing up in suburbia.

Butterfly migration

One threat to the Monarch butterfly population results from the deforestation occurring in their over-wintering locations – specifically in the mountains of Mexico.  Last year, the Monarch population dropped to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993, covering just two-thirds of a hectare (1.65 acres) in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City.

Many petitions have been signed to protect the habitat of the Monarch butterfly, but until we can develop more sustainable sources for the products currently using the trees that are being harvested, the Monarch butterfly is in jeopardy.

Just because wood is natural doesn’t make it sustainable.  There are multiple alternatives for wood.  There are lists of products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Woods Network, as well as salvaged wood and wood alternatives.

I will certainly look at wood and wood products differently going forward and hope to be part of the crusade to save the beautiful Monarch butterfly so generations to come may also enjoy them.

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There is almost frenzied focus to find alternative fuels for use around the world.  In the U.S., there are a number of different replacements for fossil fuel that have been, and continue to be, explored.  How will this affect the world economy?  Maybe you have a great idea for merging production with prosperity?  Here’s some news on the Ethanol front that may spark some creative thoughts for your own ‘liquid energy’.

Since 1981, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has been the authoritative voice of the U.S. ethanol industry. Our members are committed to helping our country become cleaner, safer, and more energy independent.

Click the pic to visit their website.

Click the pic to visit their website.

RFA Unveils New Mobile App


Ethanol Fun Fact:   Each bushel of corn used in ethanol production yields 17.5 lbs of nutrient-rich livestock feed, returning 1/3 of the bushel to the market.



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