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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I fondly remember the Disney ride attraction “Mission to Mars” that my family and I would experience during each trip to Walt Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida.  During the ride, the seats in the attraction would simulate the vibrations and G-forces from “Hyper-space” during take-offs and landings by filling up with compressed air. That ride has since been retooled a few times and morphed into Stitch’s Great Escape!

That memory came to the forefront of my brain when I read about the mission that six people will embark upon when they enter a 36 foot diameter geodesic dome on the slopes of the second biggest volcano in the solar system in Hawaii. And, to be sure, they are not there on vacation.

blog mars

This team is beginning an eight-month mission funded by the US space agency NASA to test if humans will be able to withstand the long periods of confinement in a tight space that will be required to send a manned space mission to Mars some time around 2030. For Martha Lenio, the 34-year old renewable energy entrepreneur who is commanding the mission, it is something else besides: a chance to explore the furthest frontiers of sustainability.

These engineers, who were hand-picked by NASA for their contribution to sustaining life within the pod, will have to be more self-sufficient than lunar astronauts who are in constant contact with Earth, Lenio said.

“Maybe all the things we learn about sustainability along the way will turn out to be the most useful thing about going to Mars,” said Lenio.

What a great opportunity for these six engineers – you never know what great adventure may come your way with the skills you possess.




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We study history in order to (theoretically) keep us from repeating mistakes of the past.  The great potato famine in Ireland is one of the tragedies of the modern world that is often discussed in schools.  Definitely NOT one of the mistakes we want to revisit in the 21st century!

We’re in the midst of technological breakthroughs aimed at keeping more of the world’s population fed with less of the earth’s dwindling resources being expended.  Here’s a story about potatoes, out of Amsterdam, that may surprise you:

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution

The set-up of the research station has been developed by Dr. Arjen de Vos.

Inspired by sea cabbage, 59-year-old Marc van Rijsselberghe set up Salt Farm Texel and teamed up with the Free University in Amsterdam, which sent him Dr Arjen de Vos to look at the possibility of growing food using non-fresh water.

If the experiment works and the potatoes adapt to the Asian climate, it could transform the lives of not only small farmers in Pakistan and Bangladesh,, where floods and sea water intrusion wipe out crops with increasing regularity, but also worldwide the 250 million people who live on salt-afflicted soil.

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In a study carried out by global market research company Mintel, of the 36% of Americans purchasing meat alternatives only 7% identified as vegetarians. Quorn, who produces the the leading meat substitute product, estimates that if a million people consumed lab grown meat instead of beef just once a week over a year, 12,500 fewer acres of land would be required to feed the population (pdf).

So where does this leave us as global demand for meat and associated greenhouse gas emissions (pdf) continue to rise?

Sir Paul records 'vegetarian' song

Sir Paul McCartney recently called on politicians and the British public to commit to a weekly meat-free day. Photograph: MPL Communications/PA

So….  would you eat lab grown meat to save the environment – see the results of a poll to determine how many of us would do so at the bottom of this webpage

I particularly like this poll choice:  Yes please, with extra cheese and insects on the side

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The 2014 Sustainia Awards, chaired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, attracted more than 900 submissions for projects and technologies representing 10 different sectors from food, fashion, city development, transportation, and healthcare. Collectively, these projects are deployed in more than 84 countries. You can submit your winning ideas for 2015 – see the bottom of this post.

Nigerian Pedal-Powered Recycling Initiative Takes 2014 Sustainia Award for Best Sustainability Solution

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Here are the 9 runners up:

1. Food finalist: Netafim (Israel) – gravity-powered irrigation

This irrigation system increases and secures yields while saving water and cutting costs. It drips precise quantities of water and nutrients right at the root zone of crops while an elevated tank distributes the water using gravity.

2. Transportation finalist: 8D technologies (Canada) – bike sharing app

The Spotcycle app from 8D technologies aims to make bike-sharing more convenient and smartphone-friendly.

3. Buildings finalist: Advantix (USA) – air-conditioners which use saltwater

Advantix’s air conditioning system uses saltwater which means it needs 40% less energy than normal systems.

4. Fashion finalist: I:CO (Switzerland) – textile recycling

Through an advanced take-back system, I:CO works to keep apparel, footwear and other textiles in a continuous closed-loop cycle.

5. IT Finalist: Fairphone (Netherlands) – A smart-phone with social values

Through development, design and production, social enterprise Fairphone works to create positive social impact in the consumer electronics supply chain – from responsible mining, decent wages and working conditions to reuse and recycling.

6. Health finalist: We Care Solar (USA) – solar suitcases giving life

The Solar Suitcase provides solar electricity for medical lighting, mobile communication and essential medical devices for rural areas and humanitarian settings. This enables safe and timely obstetric care, which ultimately improves maternal and neonatal outcomes.

7. Resource finalist: Newlight Tech (USA) – carbon-negative plastic

With its novel technology that converts greenhouse gases into plastic material, AirCarbon has disrupted the market by replacing oil-based plastics with a sustainable product that is competitive in both price and performance.

8. Education finalists: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (Bangladesh) – school boats combatting climate change

By building a fleet of solar-powered school boats, the Bangladeshi initiative Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has secured year-round education in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh.

9. Energy Finalists: Opower (USA) – personal energy-efficient expert

The software solution combines cloud technology, big data and behavioral science to produce data analyses and personalised information on how to save energy.

Read all about these sustainability innovations here.

Do you have a great new idea on sustainability – find out how you can submit for the next round of finalists to be announced in the fall of 2015 – you may even take home the top prize!


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