Favorite Five / May 17, 2019
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I’ve been reading about breakthroughs with sustainable technology from Fast Company lately and wanted to focus this month’s Favorite Five on the future of going green.
In light of the Democratic presidential debates that will be happening this week, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan delves into changes that the Green New Deal could have for the AEC industry. Just as the New Deal fostered giant construction projects, we could be looking at a plethora of initiatives to convert our current infrastructure into greener, more sustainable options.
The company Plenty is utilizing robots to plant and harvest crops in an indoor farm that can yield between 150 -350 times more produce than in a field. This will be a great way to make a variety of vegetables available to densely populated areas without access to farming communities, even when specific produce is out of season. No recalls needed as they don’t need to spray pesticides in the lab. They’ve also got flavor down to a science – calculating the right combination of light and moisture needed for the perfect taste. Now, if they can make my Jersey tomatoes and corn available to me up here in Boston, that would be amazing.
Researchers have found that plastics can be made from the juice of a prickly pear cactus. While biodegradable plastics can also be made from corn, corn requires fields (unless it’s made at Plenty!) that could be used for other food. Because the prickly pear cactus grows in such a harsh environment, we won’t have to sacrifice land for food to make plastic. The kicker? The cactus plastic can biodegrade in even a backyard composter within months. It takes an industrial-grade composter to even break down corn-based plastic.
Sometimes life imitates art – in this case, life is imitating Avatar, the James Cameron film
that imitated Fern Gully. An MIT researcher has found a way to map a network into venus fly traps in order to utilize them as notification devices. The ultimate goal is to turn plants into mini-computers by bio-hacking them (like in Avatar) to help us with counting wildlife or toxin levels in water. Maybe homeowners end up utilizing plants as a protection device (I’m looking at you, Devil’s Snare from Harry Potter or the Huorns/Old Man Willow from The Lord of the Rings). However, as a fan of Black Mirror, I can’t help but think of all the ways this could go wrong.
Microplastics are kind of a big deal – especially since they litter our beaches and we consume about 50,000 pieces of microplastic a year. Yikes. Thanks to engineering students at Quebec’s University of Sherbrooke, there’s now a beach vacuum that can filter out the plastic from the sand and rocks. They’re working on developing smaller machines that can be more widely used.