Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Smarter Planet
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.

blog sugar beets

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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October 7th, 2015

Lego has been enjoying a resurgance in popularity due to the current use of Robotics to enhace the science curriculum in all grade levels.  But, alas, paper dolls seem to be a thing of my youth – I rarely see these simple toys in the hands (never mind imaginations) of the little ones I encounter…  Even stuffed animals – once an inanimate object to whom one could whisper their innermost dreams and secrets – are undergoing a renaissance.   So, what are the tech toys making a splash?  Read up on some of them here…

This high-tech plush toy will be

your child’s new BFF


Tech bear

Image: Mashable/Jhila Farzaneh

Check out some other fun playthings – - courtesy of

Fisher Price


And if you’re young (or young-ish or just ‘young at heart’…) you may want to book yourself a trip to NYC for the 2016 Toy Fair where all the latest gizmos and gadgets to delight your inner child will be on display! Click the logo below to learn more…

Toy Fair

Will you be putting the next ‘must-have’ toy in the hands of children everywhere?  There’s no limit to what YOUR imagination might dream up…

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October 6th, 2015

So, you may be wondering how can lights cut emissions.  Well, the Danish city of Copenhagen has decided to host a massive experiment to determine the effectiveness of so-called “smart lights” – energy efficient street lamps that could cut carbon emissions and even help monitor an urban setting.

blog street light

Their climate change plan is a roadmap to make Copenhagen “carbon neutral” by 2025, cutting carbon emissions to insignificant levels.  To become utterly devoid of all but the most insignificant of carbon dioxide emissions, the city will have to overhaul and reinvent some of the most iconic parts of city-life.  Lighting has been found to account for about six percent of global carbon emissions, a worrisome greenhouse gas.  According to New Scientist, Los Angeles pumped out 111,000 metric tons of carbon to keep its streets lit, simultaneously costing the city and estimated $15 million.

The 5.7 miles (9.2 km) of road in the Copenhagen suburb of Albertslund has replaced their street lights with “smart lights” which will be closely observed.  These lights could even help monitor city life, sensing potentially dangerous toxins in the air or noticing peculiar street activity that may warrant police attention.

It’s nice to see yet another big move in an effort to clean up our planet.





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October 5th, 2015

We’ve had a few blogs over the past year that make reference to Origami – the ancient art of paper-folding brought to us by the Japanese.  The intricacies of these creations, made by human hands, is nothing short of breathtaking.  Modern day technology is seeking to take advantage of the principles of historic art forms to break new ground…  And here’s the most recently reported result!

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UM) have used the ancient art of paper cutting, known as kirigami, to create a unique thin-film solar cell that can use a method of following the sun called optical tracking.


Read the article direct from the school’s website

Inspired by art,


lightweight solar cells


track the sun


U Mich Solar kirigami

And take a look at the LiveScience story on the same topic:  Japanese Paper Art Inspires Sun-Tracking Solar Cell

Solar energy use is growing in popularity everywhere.  Will you be on the ‘cutting edge’ like these U Mich students?

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October 5th, 2015

I love a good experiment, I always have.  As a child I often took things apart.  Things that didn’t work because I was determined to fix them and things that did work because I wanted to know exactly how they worked.  Looking back, I’d consider myself a curious child though my parents may have thought otherwise at the time.  All that experimentation paid off because it kept me interested in science.  I wanted to learn more.  When people would tell me, in elementary, middle and even while visiting colleges while still in high school; “that’s for boys” or when I was the only girl in the room at science camps or lectures I’d go deeper to build a better circuit, create a better model, solve a harder problem.

Girls aren’t good at science is a misconception.  One that must be broken so that innovation can move forward.  Without different perspectives we only see a small bit of what’s possible.  You can be part of the solution to dismantle myths about women in science.  Join us in an experiment and have a conversation.  Hack a Hairdryer to dismantle stigmas is tech.

YouTube Preview Image

The Challenge: Take a tool that is associated with outward appearances – the hair dryer – and repurpose it for a different use from its original design.

The Objective: To help raise awareness about the negative effects of gender stereotypes and unconscious biases that women in STEM face every day.

For more information and details on how to submit your hack visit:

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