Sustainable Pittsburgh is reminding Western Pennsylvania shoppers of opportunities to Shop Sustainably and to frequent Sustainable Restaurants this holiday season. This year, the local business districts are getting creative! You can shop small and participate in these fun programs, while supporting your local shops here and throughout the Pittsburgh region — Want to shop online? Check out Handmade Arcade and I Made It! Market’s virtual marketplaces.
You can hear it in her voice, during a breakfast-time conversation about her attention-getting research on the unseen and unacknowledged relationships between humans and nature. An ecosystem ecologist jointly appointed to the Bieler School of Environment and the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, she’s up early and deep into a description of the data-gathering she’s doing for Canada’s Census of Environment, the first-ever national register of the country’s ecosystems and the services they provide.
Bennett is the principle investigator for NSERC ResNet, an interdisciplinary network of Canadian researchers and other specialists who examine the many different facets of our country’s ecosystems (she also chairs ResNet’s scientific committee). Along with her ResNet colleagues, she is busy developing new ways of understanding and assessing the present state and future possibilities of the country’s highly complex landscapes. She hopes to make useful contributions as Statistics Canada prepares the census (she was asked to join the external advisory committee for the census).
But as she homes in on a specific local problem of what should be done with Nova Scotia’s costly, vulnerable dikelands, which have long separated encroaching sea water from developed agricultural areas, she realizes she’s hit on an issue that both bothers her and excites her about the limitations of big-budget scientific research on the national scale.
“In helping to nudge Canada’s Census of Environment towards being as useful as possible to as many decision-makers as possible, one thing we’ve been thinking about is finding ways to engage actors at a very local level and assist their decisions even as we are also collecting national-scale data. How do we provide data that’s useful to federal and provincial decision-makers, but also useful in a very particular way to these local decision-makers?
“Scientifically I don’t think we know how to do that yet,” she adds, and now the measured, pensive delivery of McGill’s Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Science suddenly takes a passionate and intellectually impulsive turn. “And anywhere that I hear ‘We don’t know how to do that,’ I think, Oooh, that’s a neat idea.”
“Neat idea” may not be an official term…
For this project, scientists are analysing fluorescent protein structures from nature and testing how thet need to modify them so that they bind different fluorescent organic molecules.
When he was 16, Eric Lundgren saw a landfill near his small hometown in northwest Washington, filled with brand-new products. Ever since, he’s been building businesses that try to stand between people and their most wasteful instincts. He started an electronics recycling company at 16. He went to prison trying to restore Windows on refurbished computers. He loaded up a junked BMW with used batteries to win a Guinness record for the longest single-charge electric vehicle drive, to make a point. Now Lundgren is converting big, still-usable batteries from electric vehicles (EV) into backups for solar grids and other uses. If people aren’t going to use what’s right in front of them, he and his more than 100 employees will just have to do it for them. After our CEO Kyle Wiens toured the BigBattery plant in Chatsworth, Calif., and I talked to Lundgren about battery recovery, we came away with a whole new perspective on what you can do with a “used” EV battery.
Shampoo and conditioner powders are the latest innovation in the world of eco-friendly hair care. I thought I had tried every green, plastic-free, refillable, compostable, all-natural hair-washing method until I received two emails in the same week from companies now selling these washing powders. “Powders?” I thought in confusion, and promptly accepted the samples they were offering. One came from a brand new startup called Cocofomm, the other from established eco-beauty brand Meow Meow Tweet. Both arrived in paper envelopes and consisted of a light-colored granular powder. Cocofomm’s delivery came with a small shaker bottle, but as founder Liz Qiao-Westhoff explains, any leftover spice shaker will do. That piqued my interest because it’s a zero-waste product that makes use of packaging most people already have at home, and the envelope in which the powder comes is plastic-free and compostable.