Archive for the ‘Science Anyone?’ Category
There’s something fishy in the water, but not to worry – it’s going after the bad stuff! Meet robo-fish, an experimental device being tested in Spain’s Gijon Harbor to detect contamination and report back to scientists on the shore. This technology is encased in a sleek yellow body with a mechanical tail and fin that cuts through the shallow waters like … well, like a fish. Move over, Jaws!
Here at Ecover, where we believe in the power of science and nature to help reduce pollution, this marine experiment caught our eye! Several of these underwater robots were developed with funding from the Shoal Consortium, a European Commission-funded group of scientists and businesses. Currently, the robo-fish are undergoing testing in Spain to determine if they have a future as marine police!
“The idea is that we want to have real-time monitoring of pollution, so that if someone is dumping chemicals or something is leaking, we can get to it straight away, find out what is causing the problem and put a stop to it,” explains Luke Speller, a senior scientist at the research division of BMT Group, a technology consultancy.
With design features mimicking those of their real-life counterparts, the robo-fish appear to be agile swimmers. They house some serious technology, too, relying on artificial intelligence to hunt down the source of such pollutants as phenols, heavy metals and phosphates. The robo-fish can work alone or in teams, communicating through acoustic signals and continuously reporting back to port.
Mass deployment of robo-fish won’t happen anytime soon, but the developers hope to perfect the prototype within a few years. In the meantime, we give an enthusiastic shout-out in support of this creative endeavor that could help keep our precious waters clean. That’s something we can all get excited about!
Photo via BBC News
When it comes to eco-beauty, nail care is one niche undergoing a much-needed green makeover. While nail products and salons are well known for their use of noxious chemicals, Ecover is happy to report that consumer demand for safer and more planet-friendly mani-pedi practices is making a difference. Ladies, we know this is great news now that it’s high season for foot-baring strappy sandals andwedges!
Three chemicals in nail polish – known as the “toxic trio” – have come under the most fire in recent years: formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, all of which are banned by the European Union for use in nail polish. In 2006, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics launched a major American public relations effort to get manufacturers to remove these chemicals from nail polish. Many of them did. Still, as reported recently on ABC, the toxic three were found in several lesser-known nail polish brands used in some salons. So buyers must continue to beware when purchasing any nail product or service.
While it’s great that the mainstream nail polish brands are improving their formulations, we love seeing the many eco-friendly alternatives now available. Even fashion bibles InStyle and Allure have gushed over several of these newer products. Scotch Naturals is one line winning raves for gorgeous nail polishes that contain only water, acrylic polymers and natural colorants. Better for your nails and the planet!
Love the salon experience? Be a savvy consumer by asking questions at various establishments to find out what type of products are used there, and how the building is ventilated. Just by asking the right questions, you might coax your favorite salon to make changes.
Have fun exploring all your options, and rock that awesome and eco-friendly pedicure all summer long!
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr.com
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to dramatically curtail global warming? Well, it turns out there is! A new study suggests that painting roofs white – and resurfacing roads and pavement with light-colored materials – would be the green equivalent of taking all the cars in the world off the road for 50 years. Needless to say, this report in The Independent caught our eye here at Ecover!
Scientists have long known that increasing the reflectivity of surfaces counteracts the “heat island effect” that plagues urban areas, particularly in warmer climates. By reflecting more light back into space, buildings stay cooler and use less energy for air conditioning – resulting in a lower carbon output. But now scientists at Concordia University in Canada have studied this process in greater detail; they estimate that a city or town where the roofs and pavement have light-colored surfaces can increase reflection or “albedo” by about 10 percent. And a carbon offset of between 130 billion and 150 billion tons would result in that statistic of taking cars off the road for 50 years.
Of course this all sounds promising, but the challenge would be managing the expense and logistics of resurfacing all the roofs and roads, even in just one community. Not practical, right? Well, perhaps over time, so for now it’s crucial that we keep combating global warming on multiple fronts, particularly when it comes to cars. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Cars and light trucks are the single biggest users of petroleum, consuming 43 percent of the total.
So by all means, let’s go for lighter roofs when it’s time to replace them – while also continuing to improve fuel efficiency and reducing our dependence on cars!
Image via The Independent
Are you destined to be a Chief Sustainability Officer or maybe a Vice president of Sustainability? While such titles are hardly the norm, demand is on the rise for people with the expertise to develop and implement green business practices. Colleges and universities have responded with a slew of degree programs in sustainability. Ecover thinks this is great news for eco-minded students and career-changers!
Look at some of these training options – the range of programs available makes us all want to go back to school! You can choose from an ever-growing number of “green MBA” programs and all kinds of specialized undergraduate degree programs. How about a BFA in Interior Design, with an emphasis on green design, from Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design? Or maybe a dual major in eco-gastronomy from the University of New Hampshire is more your speed.
Among the offerings is the Master of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. Started in 2010, this joint venture between Columbia’s School of Continuing Education and the Earth Institute recently produced its first graduates. According to the program website, “Students in the program learn sophisticated measurement tools and cutting-edge environmental science to fully understand the…organizational role of sustainability in any organization.” And out West, Arizona State University offers several sustainability degrees: a comprehensive PhD and Master’s, an undergraduate major in sustainability, and most recently a minor in sustainability started in the spring of 2010.
These programs reflect the desire of both students and business leaders to do well by the planet – while at the same time attending to the bottom line. In a 2010 survey by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, 93 percent of CEOs said “sustainability will be critical to the future success of their companies.” Ecover couldn’t agree more!
Photo by Visviva via Flickr.com
Imagine a world where used plastic bottles are as precious as gold – and mined from the environment on a grand scale. Think you know how to make this scenario a reality? If so, organizers of the upcoming Plasticity 2012 forum want to hear from you! Submit your idea to the “Capturing Gold” online contest by June 15th, and it could be up for consideration at the June 21st forum in Rio di Janeiro.
Ecover is a proud sponsor of this exciting forum devoted to one of our favorite topics: environmental innovation! Plasticity will be a day-long side event at the Rio+20 earth summit. It’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs and scientists to focus on how to generate new uses for PET, the ubiquitous material used to make plastic bottles. Conventional recycling programs, while helpful, just aren’t getting the job done. The majority of the 260 metric tons of plastic produced each year are not recycled, according to PlasticsEurope. Most of the stuff ends up in landfills, rivers and oceans.
Dan Woodring, an environmental entrepreneur in Hong Kong and one of the Plasticity forum organizers, tells the New York Times we now have the technological know-how to reuse plastic for fuel or new products. The problem is that companies haven’t figured out how to generate profits with this kind of recycling. That could change if there were efficient ways to collect large amounts of plastic – and if PET was considered worth collecting.
For the contest, the Plasticity folks are looking for breakthrough ideas that address both how to “capture the gold” and what to do with it once it’s in custody. The challenge is certainly complex, but we know there are plenty of eco-innovators among our Ecover fans! Share … and you could be the hot topic in Rio!
Photo via Plasticity 2012
You know we love our pets here at Ecover! We’ve talked before about how to keep your pet safe and how to choose a sustainable lifestyle for your furry—or scaly – or feathered—friends. But today we’re focusing on all the good things that can happen to you as a pet owner!
If you have a pet, you know how it feels to be loved unconditionally. Well, research has shown that living with pets can actually provide health benefits that include lower blood pressure and a boost in your immunity system. Pets have been found to promote psychological and social well-being; not only do they provide a source of warm companionship but they also promote social interaction and foster playfulness. Moreover, caring for pets adds structure to your day and often encourages exercise and socialization…taking that daily walk with Rover can really make a difference.
In one study “pet owners exhibited greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, were less lonely, were more conscientious, more socially outgoing, and had healthier relationship styles (i.e., less fearful and preoccupied) than non owners.” Research has also shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets, and just playing with your pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax you. And for you fish lovers out there, research has even shown that watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and pulse rate!
So enjoy your pets … and embrace all the wonderful and sustainable health benefits that come from having a devoted friend!
Image by dearbarbie via Flickr.com
Exciting things are happening in the world of packaging! OK, we know what you’re thinking…really, package containers? More mundane than thrill-a-minute, right? But when you consider that scientists have figured out how to use the natural sugarcane plant to make plastic containers, you can see why Ecover is proud to be a part of ushering in this new era of sustainable packaging. As you’ve read here before, our award-winning 100% PlantPlastic packaging made entirely from sugarcane, is 100% renewable, reusable and recyclable.We think it’s pretty cool.
Ecover spent three years working in the development to transition to this alternative packaging solution using sugarcane, bypassing the problematic alternative of corn products. After all, Ecover’s tradition of innovation has always been the intersection of science and nature, beginning over 30 years ago when we started producing phosphate-free dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent. Now today, dramatic changes are again afoot as companies seek more sustainable ways to deliver their products.
We’re excited by the buzz and the interesting debate over what makes the most sense to use – corn or sugar cane. There are both important environmental and economic issues. While corn is an option, Ecover believes sugarcane is a far better choice. The cultivation of corn requires heavy doses of nitrogen fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, all which contribute to streams, rivers and ground water pollution. Sugarcane for Ecover’s PlantPlastic is grown in harmony with nature, without harming the nearby Amazonian rainforests. It’s the more sustainable choice. Corn used in packaging is more disruptive, also, to the global food supply as corn products are widely used in literally thousands of food products – as well as heavily used in ethanol production.
It’s no wonder we can’t contain our excitement over the benefits of our 100% PlantPlastic bottles! Look for the logo on most Ecover products soon!
Running our errands on any given day, we may take receipts from cashiers several times for things like iced coffee, groceries and gas. That’s fine, but now Ecover has seen that there are new studies out that draw attention to many of the receipt processes out there, reporting that some could be harmful.
The Environmental Working Group found high levels of the cancer-causing compound bisphenol A (BPA) on two-fifths of papers receipts that they tested. BPA is a substance that acts like the hormones in the endocrine system, disrupting their normal function. We’ve known for quite some time that BPA can be found in some water bottles and food cans. But receipts?
In some cases, the amount of BPA on a given receipt was 1,000 times the levels typically found in a can of food. The EPA collected the receipts from grocery stores, fast food restaurants, gas stations, postal offices and ATM’s; they conducting “wipe tests” which showed that the BPA coating of the paper receipts would likely affix to the skin of anyone who handled them. What’s more alarming; BPA can be absorbed into the skin and transferred to the digestive tract by touching the mouth.
As a company who ensures our products are healthy and safe, and as consumers in the marketplace ourselves, this is certainly concerning. Thankfully, the organization offers tips for consumers and employers who’d like to limit exposure:
- Wash your hands after handling receipts but do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners. The study showed that these products can actually increase the skin’s BPA absorption.
- Never allow a child to play with a receipt.
- Do not recycle receipts as BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.
- Transfer to paperless options like emailed electronic receipts.
We urge you to ask the stores where you shop to purchase BPA-free paper. And because we care about your health, we feel the best tip may be to simply decline any printed receipts, if possible!
Image by Guerilla Futures / Jason Tester via www.flickr.com
A large part of being a manufacturer of products designed to make your home spotless (and your life easier) is assessing our own operations – evaluating the impact of our production facilities as well as the strength of our cleaners. Our factory is a model of efficiency and efficacy, and we use our Diamond Model or Sustainable Cycle to analyze the lifecycle of our products. Ecover takes care of business so that you don’t need to worry about anything but a sparkling clean house for you and your family! Such comprehensive building, manufacturing and waste guidelines drive our business, and you can rest assured you have some of the best cleaning agents on earth.
We wish that our business model was followed in every industry. Today we’re looking at the case in the construction industry, where fluid economics and demanding schedules can conspire to make building a haphazard process. Commercial building projects can chew through raw materials, consume great amounts of our resources and waste energy and send a seemingly endless parade of waste to landfills.
Fortunately it appears that there’s growth in some ecologically-sound building practices, thanks to the efforts of environmentally savvy (and LEED certified) architects and trade groups. Along with government incentives and education, developers now get greater input relating to the use of sustainable materials and practices.
LEED Gold certification is a goal for projects seeking sustainable building.
In addition, it’s consumers at home that may be fostering more change than trade groups or government regulations – because of the growth of home projects among DIY’rs. Popular media outlets like HGTV and Planet Green, and other educational information provides a wealth of integrated solutions for efficient remodeling in your home. Big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes also help ecologically friendly remodeling and insulation construction more accessible to DIY.
Perhaps this consumer driven effort at home will provide a “trickle-up” effect, with commercial construction following the buzz to less wasteful building practices, and more earth-friendly standards.
Image via Wikimedia Commons: excess or damaged building materials often go straight to landfills.
Remember the classic baking soda volcano experiment? Just add vinegar and – voila – erupting lava! Cool and fun to do with kids, yes, but also evidence that your kitchen is a culinary laboratory where a little scientific know-how comes in handy. Especially when the recipe leaves you hanging, or you just want to try something new with whatever’s on hand.
At Ecover, we’re proud of the science behind our products, so we’re also intrigued by the idea of exploring scientifically based cooking tips. Hey, we love to eat, too! And when you think about it, every recipe is a controlled experiment involving a teaspoon of this and tablespoon of that….it’s a brave soul who goes rogue with hungry people waiting to eat. We say go for it, but be armed with information that many cookbooks don’t give you!
For instance, have you ever wondered about the secrets to browning – getting that golden crust on freshly baked bread? We can thank the “Maillard Reaction.” When baking bread, sugars are reduced by heat and react with amino acids in the dough. Baked goods with sugar substitutes don’t participate in the Maillard Reaction and therefore won’t brown, so substitute at your own risk! Speaking of substitutions, check out this great comprehensive list that you can put to good use.
Are you more curious? The Internet makes it easy to brush up on the “molecular art of grilling” or the “science of sugar,” as well as plenty of other kitchen science topics. Or generate fascinating dinner conversation with common kitchen myths! Who knew a box of baking soda in the fridge doesn’t absorb odors after all?
Have fun testing your newfound knowledge, and may all your kitchen experiments be deliciously successful!
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