July 31, 2018

Although people sometimes use “vanilla” as a byword for “boring,” the complicated global industry that surrounds this flavor is far from dull. 80 percent of the world’s vanilla crop is grown in Madagascar, which has the perfect climate for vanilla orchids. These plants only bloom one day a year and must be pollinated by hand, followed by another 9 months of waiting for the fruit to mature into pods. Then comes another weeks-long process of curing the plants using steam, Continue reading

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July 27, 2018

From smartphones to electric vehicles, many of today’s most innovative products depend on lithium-ion batteries to function. That’s why every year the tech industry upgrades these portable power sources to hold more and more charge. While this allows them to create better products (at least in theory), it also leads companies to discard a lot of technically obsolete batteries that can still collect energy. For instance, the lithium-ion units that power cars and buses can be used for Continue reading

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July 12, 2018

Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws every day. And while these small pieces of polypropylene can be recycled, they are rarely accepted by recycling centers. “Plastic straws are pretty small and lightweight, so when they’re going through the mechanical sorter, they’re often lost or diverted,” said plastics pollution researcher Sam Athey. Instead, straws usually end up in landfills which can then lead to oceans and beaches. Although no one knows just how many straws currently pollute our waterways, Continue reading

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June 28, 2018

If you’re lucky enough to visit the beach this summer, you already know to bring plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself from any harmful rays. What you might not realize, however, is that some types of sunscreen can also damage the environment. As much as 70 percent of brands on the market contain the chemicals octinoxate or oxybenzone, described by the National Ocean Service as “highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life.”

That’s bad news for places like Continue reading

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About five years ago, the residents of a small village in Peru discovered that a nearby mountain had suddenly burst into color. The snow that once capped the mountain had melted away, revealing a marvelous spectrum of multicolored soils on its peaks. Word about the “Rainbow Mountain” soon spread throughout Peru and then the world, instantly transforming this remote region into a bustling tourist destination.  

Local guides lead about 1,000 hikers to the site every day, charging $3 per Continue reading

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April 26, 2018

Americans spend roughly $30 billion each year on food for their dogs. As millennials have grown to be the top dog-owning demographic, they’re changing the way our furry friends eat. The growing trend, at first created for humans and now for pets, is to increase foods’ nutritional value while also keeping food sources environmentally sustainable.

American dogs are the fifth highest consumers of meat in the world. In addition, pets are responsible for 64 million tons of greenhouse gasses each Continue reading

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March 13, 2018

Last week McDonald’s scored a major marketing hit when the company flipped its famous Golden Arches into a “W” in honor of International Women’s Day. But the logo is far from the only thing the burger chain plans to turn upside down in 2018. In an effort to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, McDonald’s recently announced some big changes that will make it more sustainable. Along with getting rid of styrofoam cups, the chain is also switching to fresh beef Continue reading

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March 8, 2018

Last year the shipping industry transported more than $4 trillion worth of goods all over the world on huge container vessels. Although these mighty boats are now the backbone of global supply chains, shipping wasn’t always so efficient. This video takes a look at how these metal behemoths revolutionized an ancient industry and the ways they continue to innovate today.

Questions:

  1. How did large container vessels revolutionize the shipping industry?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using large container Continue reading
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February 22, 2018

From keeping lodges toasty to powering chair lifts that must frequently scale mountains, ski resorts go through enormous amounts of energy during the winter months. Along with taking a toll on the environment, this heavy dependence on power can also be quite expensive. That’s why many ski resorts throughout the country are setting up their own utility systems to produce energy efficiently and sustainably.

Colorado’s Aspen Skiing Company, for instance, generates 24 million kilowatt hours of energy per year to Continue reading

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January 12, 2018

There are few things better than having dinner delivered directly to you, especially during these chilly winter days. But even the most basic takeout orders can have a significant environmental impact due to the plastic containers and utensils provided by many restaurants. This video shows the unsustainable packaging methods used by some eateries while also offering suggestions on how they can change their ways for the better.

Questions:

  1. How can restaurants benefit by reducing the materials they include in takeout Continue reading
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