Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

So many of us are actively working on world class solutions to the challenges we face everyday.

Well, for those who are making great strides to improve and minimize our impact on our environment, this challenge is very timely.

Unilever has partnered with the University of Cambridge to sponsor the Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Challenge

The goal is to find innovative and scaleable technologies or initiatives that are contributing to one or more of the eight Global Goals  they’ve identified as most relevant to business and entrepreneurs.

Join the conversation, or better yet, submit your ideas.  Here is the timeline for the sustainable challenge2

And if you’re not quite sure how your research would fit into the challenge requirements, there is a wealth of information on their website, such as blogs of other entrepreneurs highlighting their great work and global goals descriptions.

Click on the picture to get all of the detail needed to get involved!

blog sustainable challenge3


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October 8th, 2015

I love it when I come across articles that describe how companies are using waste products in unconventional ways.  I find the solutions for everyday waste products both fascinating and surprising (and in some cases think – I should have thought of that!).

Take a look at some of these really cool recycle ideas:

1.  Turning tomatoes into plastics – because the demand for plastics is growing, more thought is needed on how to sustainably satisfy the demand.  Auto-giant Ford has been leading research into 100% bio-based plastics, teaming up with Heinz in a mutually beneficial heinzWhile producing their world famous ketchup, Heinz generates up to 2 million tons of stems, seeds and skins every single year. In a collaboration with plastics research specialists from Ford, the companies are striving to create a plastic material from plant byproducts which can be used in many aspects of automotive design and finishing.  The Coca-Cola Company, Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble are also involved in the project, which will incorporate bio-plastic material into everything from packaging to clothing, making a huge dent in the impact of petrochemical-based products on the environment.

2.  De-icing roads with cheese brine – yes, you read that correctly.  The Wisconsin city of Milwaukee has discovered a way to alleviate the dairy manufacturers’ problem of disposing of thousands upon thousands of gallons of cheese brine (the salty liquid which is left over after the production of Wisconsin’s famous soft cheeses).  They will use this cheese brine waste to treat the harsh winter roadways which freeze over with ice.  This new partnership saves tens of thousands of dollars for the municipality and manufacturers every year.

blog milwaukee

3.  Making beer with unsold bread – The “Brussels Beer Project” led by the Belgium micro-brewers have teamed up with a local sustainability group to produce “Babylone”- a beer made using leftover bread which would otherwise have been thrown out.

Talented brewing specialists were able to reduce the amount of barley used in the brewing process and replace it with bread sourced from local supermarkets, a move which sees an average of 500kg worth of unused loaves that find their way into 4000 liters of amber ale.

blog bread

4.  Using sugar beets to cool refrigerators – Anaerobic digestion, the process by which biodegradable waste materials are converted into energy or heat – has become a staple in the quest for greener industry.  The success of anaerobic digestion led UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s to investigate new ways in which food byproducts could be utilized, leading to the implementation of eCO2: an alternative refrigerant which is derived from waste sugar beet.

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Piles of sugar beets. Waste beet material is being used to create eCO2.

eCO2 meets all the refrigeration requirements of CO2, but is manufactured in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. The same manufacturer that supplies Sainsbury’s with sugar also supplies the refrigeration company with the waste beet material necessary for creating eCO2, which Sainsbury’s will use to cut their CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020.

Do you have any waste produced that you can recycle into something that reduces the draw on our natural resources?

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The following post was provided to us by Emmanuel Balami from the University Putra in Malaysia.  Thank you, Emmanuel, for sharing this news about your work!

High-Tech Public Utility Management

Following global concerns about Sustainable Development, and Environmental issues, it has become imperative to innovate, so, the idea of using embedded systems and ICT to help our world efficiently manage resource. These resources (water, energy, and food) are not only scarce but grossly mismanaged or wasted by the public. This module is a contribution in facilitating Responsible ConsumptionChange of Attitude by the public toward public utility, especially where governments subsidise these resources for the poor and also to schools and large populations. Organisations/countries that are providing aids to poor countries may wish to take advantage of this module in providing services to humanity, and also, there will be no need for subsidy coupons for countries offering that.

Here are some photos that show the system components and a demo:

Emmanuel util mgt demo2   Emmanuel util mgt demo   Emmanuel util mgt demo5Emmanuel util demo 3



Additional information on the project may be obtained by contacting Emmanuel Luke (bel) BALAMI

balami emmanuel luke - bel

Emmanuel wishes to thank IBM-USA, for funding this project to a successful execution, and Wendy Murphy, for selecting this project & her unflinching support and guidance.  And, if you’d like to learn more about Universiti Putra Malaysia, please click the logo:  Putra U (Malaysia) logo

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September 10th, 2015

For many of us, it’s a real feat to remember to add something just used up to our shopping list.  Well, lucky for us, the trashcan just got smart!

The GeniCan attaches to a trashcan so it can be used to scan barcodes of items as they are thrown out. They can then be added to a list or automatically reordered.

Check out this cute video which puts a fun spin on GeniCan‘s functionality:

YouTube Preview Image

Once installed, the GeniCan is connected to a home Wi-Fi network, via which it cross-references scanned barcodes against a UPC database and sends all data to its cloud service.  The cloud service, in turn, sends info to the accompanying smartphone app.

When an item is scanned, it can be added to a user’s shopping list, coupons for it sourced if available or, potentially, automatically reordered.  If an item does not have a barcode, it can be held in front of the GeniCan sensor until a voice prompt asks what needs to be added to the user’s shopping list.  A microphone coupled with voice-to-text technology allows users to tell the device what is required and have it show up in the app’s shopping list.

What a great time saver for those shoppers you see in the grocery aisle with a puzzled look on their faces trying to recall what else they were supposed to buy (myself included!).

This product would make making trash a more productive (and for some fun) activity!

blog trash


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We frequently hear that eating fish is a healthy thing to do, because it’s full of beneficial long chain fatty acids. Unfortunately, the Western diet tends to be short on fish and bigger on beef, which contains short chain fatty acids that aren’t quite so good for us. Chinese scientists are creating a work-around, however – genetically-engineered beef that’s high in the “good” fatty acids.

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This cowfish is here to make this a colorful blog post

Fish is a prime source of long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, more commonly known as omega-3 oils, which help protect against obesity, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders. The short chain fatty acids in beef are known as n-6.

In order to turn n-6 into n-3, a research team from China’s Northwest A and F University, and National Beef Cattle Improvement Centre, first isolated the fat1 gene from a nematode worm. That gene codes for desaturase enzymes, which play a key role in converting n-6 fatty acids to n-3.

While the research is still ongoing, I wonder how many of us would want to take the plunge and eat this new type of beef.

I guess we could order our “omega-burger” at McDonald’s golden arches and feel that we are eating healthier at least.


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