Why the outdoor industry needs to climb Mount Sustainability

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

It helps people fall in love with the natural world, and the sector is known for several sustainability stars, but the entire sector can do more.

These Genetically Engineered Bacteria Send Out A Signal When Water Gets Polluted

Read the full story in Fast Company.

A team of young scientists in Canada is developing a fascinating way to sense when water is contaminated. Their box, called the FRED or Field Ready Electrochemical Detector, contains “tunable” bacteria that react in the presence of unwanted substances. The device generates a electrical signal that can be transmitted wirelessly, so you don’t need to be anywhere near a site to know that it’s polluted.

Museums Are Using LEDs to Protect and Prettify Paintings

Read the full story in Wired.

Under museum lights, the vibrant yellows in Vincent van Gogh’s iconic sunflower paintings have muddied over time. The yellow pigment van Gogh used—lead chromate, more popularly known as chrome yellow—darkens so noticeably with light exposure that artists eventually switched to different yellow pigments entirely.

But it’s not just Van Gogh’s yellows that suffer: Light will make most paints change color. So when a masterpiece is on display, curators, lighting designers, and engineers work together in order to keep the lights low and the painting pretty at the same time. Recently, to reduce energy costs, art museums have been shifting to using energy-efficient LEDs. But the switch isn’t just about cost—it can make preserving paintings easier, too.

UF/IFAS study sheds light on how willing we are to adjust our energy bills

Read the full story from the University of Florida.

All it takes is six questions. You answer those, and University of Florida researchers say contractors will know how willing you are to upgrade your home for energy efficiency and whether you can afford the improvements.

Heating and cooling make up 54 percent of American households’ utility bills, a primary concern for Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor and Extension specialist in housing and community development. For some people, their monthly energy bill comes as sticker shock. But we all react differently when we open the envelope, and Cantrell calls that response “botheredness.”…

The study was published online June 4 in the Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Architectural Engineering.

Study: Great Plains agricultural greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated

Read the full story from Colorado State University.

Researchers from the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University and their partners have completed a historical analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. Great Plains that demonstrates the potential to completely eliminate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from the region.

The article, appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used historical agricultural census data and ecosystem models to estimate the magnitude of annual greenhouse gas emissions from all agricultural sources (e.g., cropping, livestock raising, irrigation, fertilizer production, and tractor use) in the Great Plains from 1870 to 2000.

Copper clusters capture and convert carbon dioxide to make fuel

Read the full story from Argonne National Laboratory.

Capture and convert—this is the motto of carbon dioxide reduction, a process that stops the greenhouse gas before it escapes from chimneys and power plants into the atmosphere and instead turns it into a useful product.

One possible end product is methanol, a liquid fuel and the focus of a recent study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. The chemical reactions that make methanol from carbon dioxide rely on a catalyst to speed up the conversion, and Argonne scientists identified a new material that could fill this role. With its unique structure, this catalyst can capture and convert carbon dioxide in a way that ultimately saves energy.

Pesticides: more toxic than previously thought?

Read the full story from McGill University.

Insecticides that are sprayed in orchards and fields across North America may be more toxic to spiders than scientists previously believed.

A McGill research team reached this conclusion after looking at changes in the behaviour of individual Bronze Jumping Spiders both before and after exposure to Phosmet, a widely used broad spectrum insecticide. It is a finding with far-reaching implications for agricultural production and ecosystem health.

“Bronze jumping spiders play an important role in orchards and fields, especially at the beginning of the agricultural season, by eating many of the pests like the oblique-banded leafroller, a moth that attacks young plants and fruit,” says Raphaël Royauté, a former McGill PhD student whose study on the subject was published in Functional Ecology recently. “Farmers spray insecticides on the plants to get rid of these same pests, and it was thought that it had little significant effect on the spiders’ behaviours. But we now know that this isn’t the case.”