Energy and Environment

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Water
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Microplastics can be found in every crevice of the Earth. As they become more prevalent, they are more likely to impact human health.

Top ways to avoid microplastics:

  • Filtered tap water > bottled water.
  • Shellfish = microplastic.
  • Eat more fresh food, less takeout.

Zoom out: As the global production of plastic goes up, there will be more plastic to deal with. Research on the impact of microplastics on human health is still developing. Better to be safe than sorry.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

The scoop: Below-freezing temperatures blasted the southern US this week, prompting rolling blackouts over the past few days.

Key takeaways:

  • Texas was not prepared to deal with the energy demand spikes.
  • Natural gas & coal were not sufficient, renewables failed in freezing temperatures.
  • America still needs a cocktail of energy supply to meet increasing consumer demand.

Zoom out: The Texas energy security issue is something every American should pay attention to. How can we carefully adopt a renewable-first economy without compromising reliability?

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: 600 gallons of oil spilled into the San Francisco Bay yesterday from a Chevron refinery.

Some notes on the disaster:

  • Solutions exist, restoration efforts are more innovative, why does this keep happening?
  • Media tends to direct focus on corporations and federal government, but what role do local politics play in preventing environmental disasters?

Food for thought:

Looking back at the Chevron oil spill of 2021, we should be asking ourselves:

  1. Why did the oil spill happen?
  2. What actors played a role in this disaster?
  3. What steps can these actors take to prevent it from ever happening again?

Bottom line: If the answer is primarily political, sadly, it may not happen fast enough to stop the next disaster.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Science
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Tesla is probably the most famous and influential inventor/scientist you never heard of.

A few things Tesla did:

  1. In 1904, Tesla invented an efficient bladeless turbine.
  2. Tesla proposed electric power generation through geothermal, solar and wind energy.
  3. Tesla speculated on the existence of the ionosphere years before we discovered it.

Bottom line: Tesla imagined the world in many ways more like a philosopher than a scientist. But his scientific mind was as infallible as any. One thing is for sure: the modern world would be far behind without Nikola Tesla.

Dig deeper → 5 min.

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Energy
  4. Energy and Environment
  5. Profit

The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.

The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.

By the numbers:

  • The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
  • We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
  • The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.

Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.

Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.

Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.

The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.

Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.

Dig deeper → <2 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Water

10 reasons why seaweed farms are both sustainable and practical:

  1. Seaweed farms require no land.
  2. Seaweed farms are quite efficient, and can be harvested for commercial use within 90 days.
  3. Seaweed farms by-pass negative side-effects like deforestation or pesticide-use.
  4. Seaweed farms work in harmony with surrounding wildlife.
  5. Seaweed farms don't interfere with boats or ships, and create economic opportunities where none exist.
  6. Harvesting seaweed requires very little biofuel; it is a scalable process.
  7. Seaweed has multiple uses: it can produce both food and fuel.
  8. Seaweed is biodegradable, unlike solar panels and wind turbines that require heavy metals and create waste.
  9. Seaweed yields 30x more energy per acre than biofuel land crops like soy or corn.
  10. Only 2% of the fertile ocean is covered by kelp forests, so there is much more room to grow.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Animals
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

Big picture: A 2016 study of over 8,000 threatened or near-threatened species found that over-exploitation and agricultural activity posed a much greater threat to biodiversity than climate change.

Why it matters: Climate change is abstract. It also gets all of the news coverage. In reality, ecological issues like deforestation and hunting play a significant role in the environment. These are tangible issues that we can fix before investing billions into an more abstract threat like climate change. Most of that money pours into clean energy while critical wildlife face extinction from other causes.

Sustainable suggestion: We need to approach the climate conversation in a way that works cooperatively with intersecting threats like wildfire risk mitigation or ecological restoration, not against them.

A forestry organization may want to clean-up deadwood to prevent harsher wildfires, but a conservation group will sue them for cutting down a sacred forest. A conservation group may want to support hunting an invasive species , but an animal rights group will publicly condemn them. Let's stop doing that.

Bottom line: Climate change is important, and intersects with basically every ecological issue. But that behemoth threat will be much easier to manage if we can start knocking off the little guys that we can see, touch and feel. That would call for better farming, less hunting/finishing, more land protection in sensitive areas, and less logging.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
  5. Science

The scoop: 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction.

Why it matters: We need bugs to survive and thrive.

  1. Pollination: Pollinators pollinate plants; we need them to keep doing that.
  2. Pest control: Paradoxically, predatory and parasitic insects kill pests.
  3. Decomposition: Some insects are primary or secondary decomposers. They serve an important function to clean-up animal waste.
  4. Food security: Many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians depend on bugs for food. They are a quick and easy resource for a nutritious meal.
  5. Research and innovation: Technology mimics nature (think birds and planes). Researchers can observe the ethology of insects and learn new ways to innovate. An example? Ant colony optimization in computer science.

What's causing the insect decline: Habitat loss from agriculture and urbanization is the #1 driver. Agro-chemical pollutants (think pesticides), invasive species and climate change also play a role. You can check out some cool charts and figures in this article to learn more.

How to help: Contribute to the fight against pesticides, support or start a small farm, and educate others about the importance of insects. A more positive perception of bug people can also lead to change.

Bottom line: We need bugs to survive, yet insects are on the decline. This issue deserves more recognition.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Land
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The scoop: There is an understandable skepticism around GMOs due to our bias for natural products. But GMOs have many undeniable social and environmental benefits.

What to know: The science agrees with the use of GMOs – 90% of scientists believe they are safe.

  • GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It is the process of selectively breeding plants with other genes to create desirable characteristics.
  • GMO characteristics have the potential to address food security with projects like Golden Rice.
  • GMOs can also help reduce food waste and help growers adapt to climate change with drought, heat, or flood tolerant seed varieties.
  • While GMOs are often negatively associated with health and sustainability, there is little to no science to support this claim.
  • There is overwhelmingly more research that supports GMO's ability to positively influence health and sustainability.

Bottom line: GMOs have become somewhat of a controversy, but the scientific consensus shows they are safe. In the face of a growing population and increased land use, we need a more efficient agriculture industry to be sustainable. GMOs are at the core of a more sustainable future, and more efficient food systems.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Thinking

Question: How can sustainability succeed without laws protecting animals?

The science is out on animals. Man's outdated perceptions of our underwater and in-the-forest cousins are coming to light as science meets PETA.

Animals are sentient beings. It's not a romance novel, it's the world we live in. Animals experience a wide range of emotions.

The animal manifesto: Every squirrel, every rabbit, every bear, every fish serves a clear, identifiable role in Earth's ecosystem except for two creatures: invasive species like pythons in the Everglades.... and mankind.

Humans as protectors: Man certainly plays a role in this crazy floating ball universe, but we've drifted so far from our hunter-gatherer origins that our ecological purpose is becoming harder and harder to define. As such, it is the moral responsibility of man to act as benevolent stewards for the vulnerable, voiceless animal kingdom.

Animal lives matter: The next sustainability chapter of post-industrial society begins with a recognition of animals as they are, fellow Earthlings deserving of basic rights.

Bottom line Today, most advanced nations do not recognize animals as sentient beings. And we expect sustainable lifestyles to be widely adopted in our homes? You have to learn how to drive a car before lifting up the hood to fix it.

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