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Want a happier work environment? Provide free food

Nov 20, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

We can all admit, we all love a good freebie! Especially with the cost of living increasing everyday, we can appreciate free food and drink. Large firms such as Facebook and Google are undoubtedly generous when it comes to ensuring their staff are well watered and fed. Their canteens are always filled with a variety of free hot meals, drinks and deserts. Apparently, it is said that Google have a ‘150 feet rule’ in which staff shouldn’t be further than 150 feet from a food outlet.
google canteen
So what do employers get back in return from providing free food? They receive good workers of course. Eating good food helps stimulate the mind, making you work better. And to know that a huge chunk of your wage isn’t being spent on lunch everyday also gives you that peace of mind.
facebook fridge
Now we all know that the smaller businesses wouldn’t be comfortable on spending thousands of pounds on providing free lunches everyday, but the idea can work on a smaller scale. For example, a travel technology company in South East London have ‘beer o’clock’ every Friday. An advertising firm in East London finishes work at 4.30pm every Friday to open up the bar serving cocktails, wine and beer.

Can poo power your phones, tablets and laptops?

Nov 19, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Researchers are on the aim of improving bio-batteries and weirdly enough they have just discovered a bacteria found in human and animal poo that can provide electrical charges. The experiment is taking place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and here’s how it works…

Faeces contain a bacteria which breathe minerals of iron and an electrical charge is released as a side effect as it breathes.

“These bacteria can generate electricity in the right environment. This is an exciting advance in our understanding of how some bacterial species move electrons from the inside to the outside of a cell and helps us understand their behaviour as robust electron transfer modules,” says Julea Butt, leading researcher from the department of chemistry and biology at the university.

And this isn’t the first time that natural waste has been used to charge devices. The Bristol Robotics Laboratory has discovered that urine can power up devices too, with the use of microbial fuel cells (or MFCs). They’ve already been successful in charging a smartphone! The MFCs are energy converters that turn organic matter directly into electricity by utilising the metabolism of live micro-organisms. There is no information of how much urine was used in the process, but it was enough to send text messages, browse the internet and make a short phone call.

So using natural waste to power up our everyday gadgets is definitely as ‘eco friendly’ as it gets!

Africa’s largest solar farm now in operation

Nov 19, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

South Africa is one of the sunniest parts on the globe. On average, it receives 8.5 hours of sunshine a day, making it a highly ideal place to handle large scale solar farms.

Located near Kimberley, South Africa, is Africa’s largest solar farm, called Jasper Solar Farm. It is owned by Solar Reserve, based in California and contains about 325,000 panels. Producing 96MW, it is enough to power 80,000 homes.

There are further plans for more solar farms in Africa, as they have an aim of generating 18GW of renewable energy by 2030. In 2015, the Nzema project will be built in Ghana, producing 155MW and Morocco will have several solar farms producing 2000MW by the end of 2020.

Norway’s untouched, idyllic fjord to be spoilt?

Nov 19, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Norway is always a great tourist attraction for its idyllic scenery and it’s unspoilt lands. But unfortunately, a mining company, ‘Nordic Mining’ wishes to dump 6m tonnes of tailings into a fjord, per year for 50 years. The annual waste would include 1,200 tonnes of sulphuric acid, 1,000 tonnes of sodium, 1,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 360 tonnes of carbonic acid and 90 tonnes of acrylamide as well as other acids, solvents and heavy metals including copper, nickel, lead, zinc and mercury.

The mining company claims that the waste will only cover 13% of the surface at the bottom of the fjord and although it will effect the environment, it will be temporary. They believe the waste would be more harmful if it was dumped on land rather than in the sea.

Of course the locals and conservationists do not accept these justifications. They believe the damage will be more devastating than what the mining company is saying. “The waste from the planned mine would smother everything on the bottom of the fjord. In addition, ocean streams would likely carry the toxic mining waste far from the dumping area, with detrimental effects on marine life” says a volunteer from Friends of the Earth Norway.

Scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research have even mentioned that the very fine waste particles will spread far from the fjord, polluting the food chain and harming its vulnerable ecosystem.

Seafood and fishing industry leaders and tourists have requested for further research to support the mining company’s plans, or the plans should be rejected.

The Government will be announcing a decision within the next few days.


Swedish furniture company to buy wind farm in Texas

Nov 18, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

IKEA will soon be the new owners of the 165MW Cameron wind farm in Texas, US, which contains 55 turbines. This will be IKEA’s largest single renewable investment. However much energy the company consumes globally, it aims to contribute back to the environment by producing that same amount as renewable energy.

“IKEA believes that the climate challenge requires bold commitment and action, we invest in renewable energy to become more sustainable as a business” says Rob Olson, IKEA US acting president and chief financial officer.

The company is now on the way to owning 279 wind turbines in nine countries and have over 700,000 solar panels installed by the end of 2015. At the moment, under 40,000 solar panels are installed on nine of their UK stores.

The water bottle that refills it self!

Nov 18, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

With this clever little gadget, cyclists won’t ever have to worry about carrying extra bottles of water or finding water again. Powered by solar panels, this bottle can collect water from the air!

Here’s how it works:

  • The bottle is attached to a device which is then attached to a bike. The device has a small cooler in its centre.
  • The cooler has two parts: Solar panels generate electricity to cool the upper part down, while the bottom side warms up.
  • As the bike travels forwards at a high speed, air enters the bottle and reaches the bottom part of the bottle.
  • The hot side of the device cools down, which then makes the cold side much cooler.
  • When the air enters the top part of the bottle, it is stopped with the small perforated walls, which condenses the water.
  • Droplets then flow through the straw and into the bottle.
  • The straw can be moved upwards for the water to be consumed.
  • Any standard 500ml bottle can fit in the device.

The name given to this gadget is ‘Fontus’ (named after the Roman God of wells and springs) and was designed by Kristof Retezar, an industrial design student from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Fontus has been put through as a finalist in the 2014 James Dyson award.

So if you’re wondering, does the water taste nice? At the moment Fontus cannot purify the water, therefore we can assume that if it was used in the city, the water wouldn’t taste nice and would have some unwanted particles in there, therefore isn’t suitable for the city. It only has a filter to keep the dust out. So if Fontus was used in a totally different environment such as the mountains, then I think most of us would be more happy to drink it. But fingers crossed, the young inventor can further develop this clever little gadget and we’ll be able to see it in our stores very soon!

Electric vehicles: can help dogs relax

Nov 18, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Do you have a noisy dog that can be difficult to settle down? And is there any chance you’re considering getting an electric vehicle?

A dog daycare centre in Midlothian, Scotland has discovered that when they transport their dogs in their new Nissan electric van, the van helps them relax and fall asleep.


“When we put the dogs in our old van to pick them up or take them home they’d just go mad and would bark and bark the whole way,” said Gillian Black, the daycare centre manager. The sound of the new vehicle is near-silent and is even effective on previously boisterous dogs. “They just chill out completely. Most of the time they get in, lie down and go straight to sleep. It’s clearly very calming and relaxing for them.”

The quietness of electric vehicles has also given a benefit in other areas too, for example the Los Angeles Police Department uses electric motorcycles to sneak up on criminals. They can travel around the city at high speed, chasing criminals without that thunderous engine noise that most people find startling or irritating.

However there is a negative point to their silent engines, they can cause accidents, which certainly takes out the ‘listen’ aspect out of the ‘stop, look, listen’ method before crossing the road.

For or against geoengineering?

Nov 17, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Imagine if the Earth’s temperature could cool down by the sun’s radiation reflecting back to space? Or if the Carbon Dioxide was captured directly and buried underground? Would these solutions give you a good reason to continue using your car and less of public transport? Would you become less conscious of electricity and energy usage?

In case you’re wondering, these questions are referring to ‘Geoengineering’. Geoengineering is a controversial aim of manipulating the Earth’s climate at a large scale. Its solutions can be divided into two groups:

Solar Geoengineering and Carbon Dioxide Geoengineering

Some examples of Solar Geoengineering can include:

  •     Forming reflective particles in the stratosphere
  •     Increasing the reflectivity of low level marine clouds
  •     Altering crops to make them more reflective

And some examples of Carbon Dioxide Geoengineering are:

  •    Capturing Carbon Dioxide directly from the air and storing it underground
  •     Fertilising the ocean to increase Carbon Dioxide uptake
  •     Large scale afforestation

Geoengineering is still at its early stages and more research is being carried out. Of course it has promoted many debates, as many think it is ethically wrong seeing that it involves interfering with the natural environment.

A study showed that those who are wealthy or has a self-image created from power and high status were more likely to go with the statement: “Knowing Geoengineering is a possibility makes me feel less inclined to make changes in my own behaviour to tackle climate change.”

So the big question is, what are your views on Geoengineering? And if you’re someone who isn’t against Geoengineering and have improved your behaviour towards environmental-care and climate change, would you continue with this behaviour if there were confirmed plans for Geoengineering to come into operation?

How do the panels at solar farms get cleaned?

Nov 14, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Deserts are an ideal place to operate solar farms, as there’s plentiful sunshine and open spaces. However, with a lack of rainfall and a lot of dust, it can be hard to keep the solar panels clean, resulting in a 7 – 40% reduction it’s effectiveness.  It can be time consuming and expensive to clean them manually, therefore robots have been developed to do this job. These robots were created by Ecoppia, a company that was founded last year in Israel. The robots are solar-powered and travel vertically and horizontally across the solar panels using microfiber buffers to clean them. They’re in action every night for approximately an hour and can even be controlled through smart phones.

Eran Mellar, the CEO of Ecoppia believes the robots can work in any kind of environment and is ready to expand globally, cleaning about 5 million solar panels a month by early 2015. “As we say, if you can make it in the Middle East, you can make it anywhere. We started with probably the most challenging site on the planet” said Mellar, pointing to dust storms from Saudia Arabia and Jordan that plague the Ketura array.

What would be interesting to know, is how effective these robots actually are at cleaning? It’s hard to imagine how well they can clean without the use of water. Also, how often will someone physically come and inspect the solar panels and see if any further maintenance needs to take place? Robots and technology are becoming more popular in replacing workers at simple jobs, but it would be a better idea if solar panel-cleaning can provide jobs to real people, especially to the poorer families who live in the desert where there is no work available. That way, not only are they providing better lives for families, but the panels would be guaranteed to be cleaned well and manually inspected, increasing its lifetime.

5p bag-charge to commence in England next year

Nov 14, 2014   //   by Kim Alviar   //   New and Views  //  No Comments

Although many of us have got into the habit of reusing our plastic bags, single-plastic bags are still a huge issue. Seals, turtles, a million seabirds and 1000,000 sea mammals are killed every year by ingesting them or getting them selves tangled.

The average EU citizen used 191 plastic bags in 2010 and only 6% of them were recycled, according to the commission. But when Ireland used a compulsory charge for single-use plastic bags in 2002, their use was reduced by 90% within a year. In Wales, the compulsory charge began in 2011 and have already resulted in a 76% fall in plastic bag use. Northern Ireland and Scotland began their charges this year. And England will be following next year October, where all big supermarket chains and large stores will charge 5p per bag. It’s proceeds will go to charities involved in clearing up the environmental damage caused by the bags.

We certainly know that many shoppers will be irritated by the 5p bag-charge, but can’t the large supermarket chains provide strong paper bags instead? Or 100% biodegradable bags?

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