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Simple solutions for a greener future

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26

JUL

Coconut Bio Fuels

There is an ever-present demand for more ecofriendly vehicles in this day in age. Tesla’s electric cars are growing in popularity and hybrid vehicles have been commonplace for over a decade. There is, however, a downside to full and hybrid electric vehicles. Firstly, batteries require rare earth minerals that need to be mined at great expense to the environment. Secondly, batteries have a useful life of a few years before they need to be replaced and contain a host of toxic chemicals complicating disposal. Thirdly, there is virtually no benefit from electric cars if the electricity is generated by fossil fuels which is the case in most parts of the world. A possible ecofriendly alternative to electric cars is ones powered by biodiesel. This fuel is created through a process called

transesterification where vegetable oils are processed and separated into methyl esters and glycerin. Methyl esters can be used to power diesel engines and glycerin has several useful applications such as the production of soap. Naturally, coconut oil can be used in this process due to its high fat content and hence high energy density. Biodiesel burns quite cleanly and does not produce many of the same pollutants created by burning conventional diesel. However, burning any material will result in the production of CO2 emission regardless of how cleanly it may otherwise burn. So does this discredit coconut oil as a potential ecofriendly biofuel? Not quite. This is since despite CO2 being released via burning coconut biodiesel, an equivalent amount of carbon will be sequestered in the process of going the coconuts since plant life converts CO2 into Oxygen. This process is known as the carbon cycle where there is a natural equilibrium between carbon and oxygen being released into the atmosphere leading to a minimal greenhouse effect.

 

13

JUL

Activated Coconuts

Go to any health or wellness store and you will see a new trend. Black toothpaste, face creams, soap, and many other household products. This new aesthetic is not just a marketing gimmick. Companies are increasingly adding activated carbon into their products promising anything from whiter teeth to full body detox. As with any new wellness trend, there are many questions as to their legitimacy. We all remember drinking raw apple cider vinegar or trying the whole gluten free diet within the last couple of years. This is not to say that either of those are ineffective. But, after all, they are trends and regardless of their usefulness, interest in them comes and goes. Activated carbon, however, is a different story. Although it has been thrust into the wellness spotlight, its use has been in the mainstream for quite some time. Activated carbon has incredible absorption capabilities. This is due to a high surface area that is compacted into just a small amount of black powder. What does this mean? Toxins can be very effectively absorbed by this substance making it an ideal filter. In other words, it is a powerful molecular sponge that has a wide variety of applications from treating drug overdoses to environmental cleanups. Coconut shells are an ideal candidate to produce activated carbon. They are a byproduct of an existing process that would otherwise be disposed. But how are coconut shells converted into a black powder? This is possible thanks to a process known as pyrolysis. In short, any organic material or “biomass” can be heated to a high temperature in an environment that has reduced oxygen. This breaks down the biomass without allowing it to burn. The result, if done properly, is charcoal. This charcoal is then “activated” by soaking it in a solution of either Calcium Chloride (a compound used in wastewater treatment) or Citric Acid (lemon juice). This activation, without going into any complex chemistry, gives the charcoal its large molecular surface area and the resulting product is activated carbon. Coconuts are particularly useful in creating this substance because compared to other recycled biomass, such as lumber used for construction, there are typically no chemical additives creating a safer and more eco friendly product. Many cultures around the world have been using coconut charcoal for both heating and traditional medicine for many generations. The many uses of coconut charcoal and activated carbon are a tribute to the broad range of applications that coconut shells as a waste product can provide.

07

JUL

Coconut Shells : Eco-Friendly Building Material?

During the so-called green rush, there has been a broad search for finding eco-friendly construction materials. Conventional building materials such as concrete and lumber are extraordinarily damaging to the environment both due to deforestation and heavy carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing.

Nearly 61,000 acres of forest have been lost to the timber industry in 2017 (Source: Livescience.com) and nearly 8 % of the world’s CO2 emissions in 2016 were directly the result of manufacturing cement (Source: bbc.com). When searching or an eco-friendly building material, a durable and strong material is needed. Preferably one that is already a byproduct.

 

 

Although not very intuitive, coconut shells are being investigated as a potential eco-friendly building material. These shells are an abundant by product material that is carbon neutral. They are strong, waterproof, and aesthetically pleasing. A Mumbai based marketing professional (Manish Advani) and architect (Jayneel Trivedi) have spearheaded a project to create eco-friendly houses made from coconut shells. In the heavily impoverished slums of Mumbai, inexpensive building materials are in high demand and this demand could be partially met with the help of coconut shells. The duo uses this eco-friendly material along with scrap wood, metal, and other recycled goods to build small houses for poverty ridden communities all at a price below 200 US dollars.

This project is another testament to the versatility and usefulness of coconut shells and other eco-friendly materials. Not only can they be used to replace everyday household items but they can be used as a household themselves.

20

FEB

The Art Of Eco-War (part1)


The art of Eco-War

–part 1–

Our objectives are to raise ecological consciousness, to encourage and promote a more earth-friendly living and help you create smart strategies to ditch as much as possible your plastic consumption. To make a real difference we need to know that strategy is incumbent upon learning how to effectively minimize our waste and ecological footprint. Unluckily unsustainable habits like plastic are so embedded in our lives that it is impossible to get rid of them easily. Winning this ecological battle needs education, effort, and self-awareness.

So you think that a bunch of governments around the world increasingly awakening to the scale of plastic pollution and banning bags and straws will change the disastrous situation in which we are? Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg and we need to prepare for a wider scale “war” on pollution. Paraphrasing one of the best strategist of all time, Sun Tzu, to win a hundred battles we first need to know our enemy, our environment and ourselves.


Know your enemy:

For some decades plastic has been considered as the “miracle material”. The name plastic has its origin from the Greek “plastikos” which means to mold. The two most widely manufactured plastic is polyethylene and polypropylene. They were first produced in the ’60s for commercial purposes. The first plastic household to be commercialized was a basin and was meant to be a safer and more durable alternative to iron or wooden ones which could last forever. In fact, plastic items were demised to be passed down for generations. So what is gotten to us that we took an immortal material and we started creating single-use objects?

Today more than 50% of plastic production is meant to become single-use plastic and just 9% of it is recycled. Most of it is meant to become landfill or being thrown in the ocean. Our habits have been corrupted by something that insidiously entered our lives like an addiction. We are addicted to the hasty and unsustainable solution that plastic is given to us.  For medical procedures or during humanitarian disasters the use of plastic syringes and bottles is essential. It can save lives if used smartly. An estimated 100MILLION marine animals are killed each year by plastic. It can be a weapon of mass destruction if used ignorantly. By using organic containers, tableware, and reusable bags we can drastically reduce by 80% of our daily plastic waste and our ecological footprint.

KEEP READING PART2

19

FEB

The Art Of Eco-War (part2)


The Art Of Eco-War

–Part 2–

Know your environment:

We are now aware of the massive impact plastic is having on our planet. It is hard if not impossible to determine how much of these plastic has already fragmented in the ocean, turning it into a gigantic plastic broth. Studies until recently just focused on the amount of microplastic in the ocean. Microplastic particles get broken from bigger pieces( bags, toothbrushes, straws, bottles, etc…) by ocean currents and exposure to ultraviolet light on the surface of the oceans. Worldwide production in 2014 was 311 million tons. Biologists calculated that the total number of plastic particles in that year was some­where between 15 and 51 trillion. Altogether, these microplastics would weigh somewhere between 93,000 and 236,000 tons. 

What we really want is for companies to give us choices of more plastic-free products or products that can be reused or refillable. There is a broad range of materials sourced from nature that we can use as an alternative to plastic. For instance, we use coconut, bamboo, lepironia grass, loofah, and water hyacinth to make our products. We use them to craft loads of items we use every day and we often dispatch too soon.  These are just a few of the incredible range of materials mother nature gave us. Following are other examples of  incredible alternatives to plastic: 


  • Bagasse: Is a natural material similar to polystyrene. It’s a byproduct that comes from sugarcane waste. Perfect for delivery packaging. It’s biodegradable, compostable and sustainable.
  • Seaweed: A British startup called Ohoo created a seaweed water bubble as an alternative to plastic bottles. It’s both economic and very efficient.
  • Corn and Hemp: They are well-known miraculous plants. Their many uses in diverse fields make them two of the best plants on the planet. Ranging from food to medicine, from clothing fabric to bioplastic, we have just started to understand the true properties and functionalities of these 2 plants.
  • Stone: The primordial and fundamental material for the beginning of civilization and civil engineering. From time to time we have been using it for architectural construction, masonry, tools, pottery, and ornaments. Little we know, of the most recent discoveries about stone’s capabilities tho. Surprisingly, paper can be made out of stones with less water and more energy efficiency than conventional paper. Being printable, water-resistant and recyclable, it’s a more than valid alternative to paper and plastic. It could be used for packaging, books or disposable food delivery bags and containers.

KEEP READING PART 3

 

18

FEB

The Art Of Eco-War (part3)


The Art Of Eco-War

–Part 3–

Know yourself:

It is hard to change your habits, and it’s nearly impossible to fully avoid plastic use. When you think that you have finally made it and leapt onto the green side by reusing bottles, bags and bamboo straws, you should ask yourself; Am I really there?  If you take a better look at your routines, maybe you’ll figure out that you are not there yet. However, moving towards the utopic zero-waste zone it’s possible just by becoming aware of the fields in your life in which you’re still not using existing alternatives. It is a great accomplishment to get rid of the single-use mindset and start reusing as much as possible. But many times the default consumeristic behavior has made people so naturalized into using certain plastic products that they stealthily pass undetected as an environmental threat. There is a need to examine a little better each individual plastic addiction and use natural alternatives to these veiled single use pollutants. Here is a list that will help you to weed out some more of these disposable synthetic products and how to use respective Eco-friendly substitutes.


  • Cotton buds: We have all seen the picture of the tiny seahorse carrying around a plastic cotton bud. When you flush them down the toilet bowl, they will eventually go to join the legion of marine life killer floating plastic objects in rivers and oceans. The stick is usually made of plastic. You should use instead biodegradable ones made of bamboo, metal ears’ cleaners or an even better and safer option would be seawater and a washcloth  
  • Toothbrushes: Keeping long-lasting fresh breath and white teeth have been a struggle for millenniums. Our ancestors were using natural but often gross remedies. Today you have the possibility of using great toothbrushes made of bamboo and natural fibre bristles. It is easy, cheap and suggested to brew your own homemade natural toothpaste combining ingredients like coconut oil, baking soda and bentonite clay. If you want to find out some more some incredible toothpaste recipes click HERE and start making your own today!
  • Combs/Hairbrushes: Wooden and bamboo combs and hairbrushes are both the most eco-friendly option and the safest for your hair.  Contrariwise hair salons often use plastic ones because they’re cheap and you can choose from a wide variety of colours.  Perhaps we cannot just focus just on the colour or the price, instead, analyze why the natural choice is better for you. A plastic hairbrush or comb with their hard bristles and sharp teeth could damage the scalp and the hair. Instead, wooden or bamboo comb brushes are softer and round tipped and do not dig deep into the sensitive scalps. Moreover, plastic brushes charge your hair with a lot of static energy, and can eventually ruin and weaken the hair making it frail and dry. On the contrary, bamboo discharges static electricity and keeps hair soft and smooth.
  • Flipflops: Since the beginning of civilizations we have been wearing flip flops. In oriental cultures and religions, natural flip flops become an icon of respectfulness and love toward nature. They connect us to the earth hence we should use a natural conductor to do not break these transcendable bond. The more sustainable option would be buying traditional Indochinese handmade water hyacinth footwear or Japanese rice straw zori. For a more modern and sporty style, there are plenty of design options for products made from cork, natural rubber and cotton.
  • Baby wipes: A recent study from the U.K. found out that just in Britain a staggering 11billion wet wipes are used and trashed every year. It’s impossible to quantify the exact number of baby wipes used across the world, but we can see already the first sign of environmental catastrophes. Most of the people are not even aware of the massive scale damage these wet wipes are creating. The vast majority contains nonbiodegradable and nonrecyclable plastic. They get stuck in water pipes when you flush them down the toilet and even create sewer blockages in major cities across the world. They are very handy and for some people a must to carry on, luckily there are different brands which sell natural, eco-friendly and flushable ones. If you cannot live without them, at least, please read the label and choose wisely some that are not damaging the environment or blocking your toilet.
  • Clear tape: You can use paper tape or even better, reusable ropes.
  • Pens: There are plenty of sustainable options to choose from. Forget about recycled plastic and just buy natural plant starch plastic or a combination of metal and wood which you could even reuse. There are even some pens mostly made of paper. Buying one of them is like writing a love letter to mother nature every day!
  • Individual Size Yoghurt: If you love yoghurt, buying the biggest package to reduce plastic waste is not the only option. For some, there is no breakfast without yoghurt. If you are one of them, today you are going to find a way to save money, reduce your waste and keep enjoying your beloved dairy without feeling like a serial tosser. The solution is simple, you can easily start to culture it at home! Yes, it’s really that easy.  Warm up 4 litres of whole milk and pour it in a couple of large jars, add 2 tablespoons of your favourite plain yoghurt, wait overnight, enjoy it! Few simple steps, a lot of waste reduced and money saved. Click HERE to see the whole procedure and start culturing today!
  • Plastic wraps: Exactly like plastic bags, it’s designed for single use only and is just as dangerous for marine life when it ends up in the ocean. Buying a reusable container which comes with a lid would be the ideal. If we want other options more similar to the plastic wrap we could use a reusable silicone wrap, beeswax or ricepaper. 

Have a question!