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Dutch Startup Wants to Train Crows to Clean Streets of Cigarette Butts

Alarmed by how many cigarette butts littered the parks of Amsterdam, two Dutch designers came up with an unusual plan to train crows to pick up the butts and trade them for tasty rewards.

Industrial designers Ruben van der Vleuten and Bob Spikman originally considered using robots to clean the streets of cigarette butts, but they presented a series of difficulties, particularly the complicated programming required to have them vacuuming the buts out of every nook and cranny while trying to avoid bicycles and passers-by. So they turned their attention to one of the most abundant resources of urban areas – birds. Pigeons were the first ones they considered, because they can be found in virtually every city in the world, but a quick search revealed that they aren’t really known for their intelligence, so training them would have been very hard. But the two designers soon found a bird that was both very common around human settlements and much, much smarter – the crow.

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Bizarre Mouthpiece Allegedly Turns Polluted Air into Clean, Mineral-Infused Air

Treepex is a portable barrel-like device that allegedly uses living tree cells compressed in replaceable cartridges to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, emulating a tree’s ability to transform polluted air into mineral-enriched air. It sounds like a game-changer for sure, but nobody knows if it actually works, plus, it looks kind of funny.

Developed by a Georgian, Tbilisi-based, startup with the same name, Treepex claims to provide a real solution to the world’s growing air pollution problem. Using a new technology called CRISPR, the company was apparently able “to extract the DNA of actual trees to recreate the living cells that are responsible for photosynthesis”, and compress them into cartridges that absorb polluted air and release clean fresh air for the user. All you have to do is plug a cartridge into the tubular Treepex, stick it into your mouth, and breathe.

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How Discarded Orange Peels Brought a Costa Rica Forest Back to Life

20 years ago, a couple of ecologists fighting for the conservation of Costa Rica’s tropical ecosystems convinced a large orange juice producer to donate part of their forestland to a national park in exchange for the right to dispose of massive amounts of orange peels on a degraded plot of land within that same park. No one had any idea what an impact that would have.

In 1997, Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, a husband and wife team of ecologists working with the Área de Conservación Guanacaste national park, in Costa Rica, came up with a plan to save a piece of unspoiled, completely forested land from a big fruit juice company, by offering something very attractive in return. If the company, Del Oro, agreed to donate part of its forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste, they would be allowed to deposit massive amounts of waste in the form of orange peels on a 3-hectare piece of degraded land within the national park, at no cost. Disposing of tons of leftover pulp and peels usually involved burning them or paying to have them dumped at a landfill, so the proposal was very attractive.

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These Three Dogs Are Bringing Chile’s Fire-Devastated Forests Back to Life

In January 2017, a series of fires in central Chile’s La Maue region burned down over 457,000 hectares of forest, leaving behind nothing but charred ground. Now, three border collies are helping replant it all by doing what they love most, running.

Das, Olivia, and Summer, three female border collies have been working hard to bring the fire-devastated forest back to life, since March. Not that they know how hard or how important their work is, since they are essentially running and playing. The dogs’ owner, 32-year-old Francisca Torres, takes them to various areas of charred forest in her truck, equips them with special vests that come with special satchels which she fills with seeds of endemic plants. Then the dogs are sent out to run around and spread as many seeds as they can. When they return, she rewards them with snacks, fills up their satchels and sends them out on another run.

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Brazilian Man Spends 40 Years Bringing a Forest Back to Life

83-year-old Antonio Vicente has spent the last four decades of his life fighting against the current. As Brazilian landowners cut down rainforests to make room for profitable plantations and cattle grazing grounds, he struggled to bring the lush jungles of his childhood back to life. Today, his efforts are being rewarded, as the completely stripped land he once began planting trees on 40 years ago, has become a beautiful jungle teeming with tropical wildlife once again.

It was 1973 when Antonio took up the challenge of restoring the forest on a 31-hectare piece of land that had been razed for cattle grazing. Ironically enough, he bought the land on the outskirts of Sao Pablo, in Brazil’s Sao Paulo region, using credits that the military government was giving out to promote deforestation and investing in advanced agricultural technology. But Antonio had no intention of using the money to boost the national agriculture. He just wanted to revive the forest.

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This Uninhabited Tropical Island Has the World’s Highest Density of Plastic Pollution

One of the last things you would normally expect to find on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific is plastic, and yet the beaches of Henderson Island are riddled with nearly 40 million pieces of plastic, ranging from toothbrushes to shopping bags and bottles.

According to a recent report published in the in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” journal, Henderson Island currently has zero inhabitants and around 17 tonnes of plastic trash, with around 13,000 pieces washing up on its shores every single day. The tiny patch of land has been found by marine scientists to have the highest density of debris recorded anywhere in the world.

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Couple Spend 25 Years Turning Barren Patch of Land into Paradise of Biodiversity

In 1991, Anil and Pamela Malhotra bought a 55 acres of unused farmland in Karnataka, India, and started planting native trees on it. Over the last 25 years, their small forest has turned into a 300-acre wildlife sanctuary that hundreds of endangered plants, animals and birds call home.

Anil and Pamela met and married in New Jersey, USA, during the 1960s. They both shared a love for wildlife, and after visiting Hawaii on their honeymoon, they fell in love with the archipelago’s lush forests and fascinating fauna. They bought some land and decided to settle there. “That is where we learnt the value of forests and realized that despite threats of global warming no serious efforts were being made to save forests for the future,” Anil said.

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The Brave “Spiderman Cleaners” Risking Their Lives to Keep China’s Mountains Trash-Free

With millions of Chinese visiting the country’s sacred mountains every year, keeping them trash-free is incredibly difficult. Luckily, that’s where the Spiderman cleaners come in. These dedicated men an women risk their lives on a daily basis, rappelling down steep cliffs to reach plastic bottles, bags and various other garbage thrown there by uncivilized tourists.

Spiderman cleaners get their name from the dangerous nature of their job. Photos released in the media show them dangling thousands of feet above ground on the side of steep mountain cliffs, supported only by ropes or cables, as they attempt to collect hard-to-reach trash. In an attempt to highlight the danger of their work and make tourists think twice before littering, some of the cleaners actually exchanged their regular uniforms for Spiderman costumes. This has made them a hit with visitors, who often stop to watch these real-life versions of their favorite superhero descend into the abyss to pick up a piece of trash, rewarding them with applause and cheers when they complete their mission.

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Poo Couture – Dutch Designer Turns Cow Manure into Fashionable Clothing

With cattle breeding at an all time high, manure has become one of the world’s greatest environmental hazards, but one Dutch artist is using chemistry to turn into something that is both eco-friendly and valuable. Her innovative technique turns manure into a variety of useful materials like clothing fabric, bio-degradable plastic and paper.

In recent years, scientists around the world have made great progress in their attempts to recycle cattle manure, including turning it into natural fertilizer and biogas, but Eindhoven designer Jalila Essaïdi didn’t think they were efficient enough to solve the global manure surplus problem. So she started on her very own solution, one that approached animal waste as a valuable material that could be processed into useful products. The results of her work prove that manure really is worth its weight in gold.

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Indian Company Makes Edible 100% Biodegradable “Plastic” Bags

In an effort to combat plastic pollution, Indian startup EnviGreen has come up with a combination of natural starch and vegetable oils that looks and feels just like plastic, but is 100 percent organic, biodegradable and eco-friendly. You can even dispose of such a “plastic” bag by eating it.

EnviGreen founder Ashwath Hedge came up with the idea for these revolutionary bags after seeing people struggling to find alternatives to plastic bags, following bans imposed by several Indian cities. “People were concerned bout how they would carry products from the market now. Everyone cannot afford a bag worth Rs. 5 or Rs. 15 to carry a kilogram of sugar,” he told The Better India. So the 25-year-old decided to work on something that would solve this problem while being environment-friendly.

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Activist To Wear All The Trash He Creates in a Month

Environmentalist Rob Greenfield wants to change the way Americans think about their trash footprint by wearing every piece of trash he creates over 30 days.

“For one month, Rob Greenfield is going to live like the average American. He’ll eat, shop, and consume just like the average American which produces 4.5 pounds of trash per day. The catch? He has to wear every piece of trash he creates,” an announcement on his website states. “That’s over 30 pounds of trash on his body by the end of the first week and nearly 140 pounds by the end of the month (almost his body weight)! Every coffee cup, plastic bag, pizza box, every single piece of trash he creates will be on his body, everywhere he goes.”

The idea behind Rob’s “TrashMe” project is to show people the cumulative effects of trash. Most people never think about how much waste they are producing every month. They just seal their garbage bags, put them in the bin and wait for someone to pick it up. But what if they came face to face with a walking, talking display of overconsumption? That might get them thinking about the world’s growing trash problem and maybe even get them to limit the amount of trash they generate.

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Researchers Use Wastewater to Grow 240-Hectare Forest in Egyptian Desert

Located near Ismailia, about two hours from Egypt’s capital, Cairo, Serapium Forest is nothing short of an environmental miracle – a 240-hectare forest of both native and non-native trees thriving in the middle of the desert.

Advancing desserts have become a serious problem throughout the African continent, but a team of German and Egyptian researchers has come up with a very efficient way of stopping desertification and even reclaiming land from the dry sands. While forests have been used to stop the spread of deserts into fertile land for a very long time, the absence of rainfall makes nurturing the trees and keeping them healthy an almost impossible task in most African countries. But it turns out we don’t have to rely on water falling from the sky, as waste water works even better for plants and trees not intended for human consumption.

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You Might Not Want to Go There, but North Korea Is One of the World’s Last Havens for Birds

North Korea may be one of the world’s least tourist-friendly countries on Earth, but its strategic location along the avian East Asian Australasian Flyway and complete lack of development is preventing the extinction of several once plentiful species of migratory birds.

Around fifty million birds, from tiny song birds to cranes, journey across the East Asian Australasian Flyway every year, and eight million of them are shorebirds or waders. For many of these, North Korea’s west coast is the only stop for tens of thousands of miles, which means that without it, they would probably couldn’t finish their epic trip. But what makes this otherwise inhospitable place so important to birds?

A group of New Zealand bird watchers asked permission from the North Korean government to enter the country and observe the migratory birds. Armed with binoculars, powerful telescopes and cameras they counted the birds making their stop from the southern hemisphere all the way to the top of the northern one. “As we lose habitat elsewhere, the birds are going to get more and more pushed into remaining habitat, which by default means North Korea,” birder David Melville told the BBC. Because the shorelines of neighboring countries China and South Korea have witnessed rapid developments, with most of the mudflats having been converted to dry land for agriculture and industrial projects, the birds have virtually no place to stop and refuel.

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Panama’s Eco-Friendly Plastic Bottle Village

‘The Plastic Bottle Village’ is just the sort of innovative idea that might eventually save the Earth from drowning in plastic. It’s a planned 83-acre community in Panama that, as the name suggests, is going to be entirely built out of discarded plastic bottles.

Located on Isla Colón, in the Bocas del Toros province, The Plastic Bottle Village will include approximately 120 homes of varying sizes. The design process begins with building frames of rebar and steel mesh, which are then filled with used plastic bottles. Once this step is complete, and various electrical and plumbing lines are inserted, the plastic walls are covered by concrete – both inside and out.

So the finished homes look just like conventional ones, and no one will actually be able to tell that the walls are made of plastic. What’s more, the unusual choice of construction material will keep the house a considerable 17°C  cooler than the temperature outside. The homes also come equipped with a septic tank system, standard windows, doors, and an exterior sidewalk.

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The Amazing Story of a Gambler-Turned-Conservationist Who Spent $90 Million Saving Nature

Former gambler and businessman M.C. Davis placed the biggest bet of his life about 20 years ago when he decided to spend a considerable chunk of his fortune on nature. Over the past two decades, he spent $90 million purchasing thousands of acres of land all over Florida. And the risk paid off – he managed to revive forests and swamps across the state, saving several wildlife species in the process. Although he tried to do his conservation work without attracting too much attention, the positive effects of Davis’ efforts could not go unnoticed forever. Last year, he was featured in Smithsonian Magazine and on the National Public Radio website, and his story went viral.

Having grown up in a cramped trailer on a dirt road in the Florida Panhandle, Davis set out to make a fortune at a very young age, becoming a self-proclaimed gambler and hustler. He made hundreds of millions of dollars, but it took a simple traffic jam to bring about the epiphanic moment that would change the course of his life forever. “It’s drizzling rain, and I was just sort of frantic with exasperation,” he told NPR. “Stuck in traffic, and I looked up, and I saw on the marquee of the high school, ‘Black Bear Presentation’. Intrigued, he decided to pull over and attend the event.

At the time, Davis didn’t even know that Florida had black bears, but the lecture made by two women of the Defenders of Wildlife piqued his interest – the very next day he donated enough money to keep the Defenders campaign alive for two years. He also began to read more books written by environmentalists, and kept in touch with Laurice MacDonald, one of the Defenders that had oipened his eyes. “He had the steepest learning curve,” MacDonald later said. “We would begin with little debates. They were a little testy but fascinating.”  

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