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This poem about air actually gets rid of pollution

in-praise-of-air-simon-armitage
University of Sheffield

Most environmental poems suck. “In Praise of Air” is no exception -- it sucks nitrogen oxide!

The poem is on display at the U.K.’s University of Sheffield (it was written by Simon Armitage, one of the school’s poetry professors). Researchers at the university devised an air-cleaning formula used in the material the poem’s printed on, which will eliminate the equivalent of 20 cars’ NOx pollution every day. (Nitrogen oxide speeds global warming and acid rain.)

Here’s how it works:

The 10m x 20m (33x66 feet) piece of material the poem is printed on is coated with microscopic pollution-eating particles of titanium dioxide, which use sunlight and oxygen to react with nitrogen oxide pollutants and purify the air.

(For nerds, here’s more info. Essentially, natural or artificial light activates the material, and its electrons change NOx into a harmless soluble nitrate that can be washed away.)

The poem is posted on the side of the university’s animal and plant sciences building, where it’ll stay for a year. Here it is -- you be the judge of its suckitude:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Watch this Austrian farmer’s awesome rant about milk vs. Red Bull

There’s a lot of food hypocrisy in the U.S. “Skip the raw milk,” says the FDA. “But here, eat glow-in-the-dark Cheetos!”

It’s not just stateside, either. Austrian farmer/comedian Petutschnig Hons recently ranted about a customer who was happy to pay for the “piss-colored rainbow” that is Red Bull but found fresh, organic milk too expensive.

Read more: Food, Living

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Here’s how and where you’re most likely to die on a bike

cycling-flickr-steven-vance
Steven Vance

Getting rear-ended doesn’t sound THAT bad as far as accidents go -- you could get viciously t-boned instead, or an anvil could fall on you when you’re in your convertible. (Just sayin’.) But for cyclists, it’s the most deadly kind of crash.

According to a new yearlong study by the League of American Bicyclists, 40 percent of U.S. bicycle deaths are from a driver hitting you from behind, or as Treehugger gruesomely puts it, “where drivers just go right over a cyclist.” Ugh. Here's a breakdown of the types of fatal collisions:

most-common-bicycle-collisions
League of American Bicyclists

Another major finding:

High-speed urban and suburban arterial streets with no provisions for bicyclists are an over-represented location -- representing 56 percent of all bicyclist fatalities.

Geographically speaking, Florida’s the worst place to be a cyclist, with 17 percent of the nation’s cycling fatalities, and almost 22 cyclist deaths for every 10,000 bike commuters -- well above the national average of 8.6:

Read more: Cities, Living

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This app makes the NYC subway system come alive

Subway maps aren’t exactly the most gripping thing to look at while killing time. But if you're in New York, the free app Tunnel Vision wants to use data to make the minutes go by a little faster.

tunnel-vision-itunes
iTunes

Point Tunnel Vision at any MTA map, and augmented reality gives you nuggets of info about arrival times, turnstile activity (!), and even census data like rent prices and median incomes in various neighborhoods. It doesn’t even need wifi to work. Here’s a quick overview:

Read more: Cities, Living

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smells like team spirit

The sharing economy locked itself in its room again — it’s going through puberty

pierced-tongue-teen-shutterstock
Shutterstock

Is that hair down there? Where did these boobs come from? Such questions are undoubtedly on the mind of the sharing economy, which Fast Company’s Lisa Gansky has decided “is going through puberty.” Who wants to give it the sex talk? (Shudder.)

Gansky says the sharing economy’s voice has dropped: Businesses used to speak to customers from on high, but now they prioritize the voice of the masses. This could be true of any company, though, as frequent PR snafus on Twitter demonstrate; it seems more characteristic of the internet in general than just collaborative businesses (although the latter certainly take part, too).

One of Gansky’s better points is that the grown-ups are starting to enforce house rules -- meaning collaborative businesses like Airbnb are running into regulatory issues:

Until last year, many of these marketplaces were flying under the radar of incumbents and regulators. While RelayRides and Airbnb ensured that their customers were insured, there was a clear and growing misalignment between last century’s predominant model of ownership and this emerging state of access. Predictably, as with any adolescent possessing power tools, periodic oversight from authorities arrived and government institutions tapped, or in some cases, slammed on, the brakes.

Sure, once you could just rent a room on Airbnb for a harmless little orgy. NOW the grownups say no drugs and no prostitution. Parents just don’t understand!

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chocolate vanilla swirl, swirl

The week in GIFs: Orange Is the New Black

You don't need a prison wife to appreciate the week's green news. (Last week: Broad City.)

Bill McKibben wants you to get arrested (for climate change, natch):

crazy-eyes-orange-is-the-new-black
Tumblr

Obama is finally releasing big new climate regulations:

happy-dance-orange-is-the-new-black
Tumblr
Read more: Living

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Non-hippies finally realize buying vintage could save the planet

A woman sports vintage Chinese fashion in the Forbidden City
Trey Ratcliff
A woman sports vintage Chinese fashion in the Forbidden City.

It’s easy to get insulated with green-talk: The climate’s warming, so ride your bike, take public transit, shop secondhand, grow your own food, etc. These topics get burped up in the sustainability bubble again and again. So it’s awesome when Normal People start taking note!

Case in point: an article yesterday on Collectors Weekly titled, “Could the Clothes on Your Back Halt Global Warming?” I wasn’t familiar with the site, but from a cursory glance, its writers are more familiar with the finer points of coin collecting and art deco than the recommended upper limit for atmospheric CO2.

And yet there it is, a detailed introduction to fashion’s planetary impact: Producing clothes takes huge amounts of resources; items are discarded too quickly; and all of this waste is contributing to climate change. Buying vintage not only addresses a fashionista’s need for novelty; it also saves water and cuts down on greenhouse-gassy energy and pesticide-reliant cotton.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Pope Francis continues being awesome, says Christians should fight climate change

pope-francis-waving-cropped
giulio napolitano / Shutterstock

Pope Francis, or the awesomest pope in the history of ever, just said religious people have an obligation to fight climate change. It’s part of being a good steward of creation, after all.

Yesterday, the pope gave an address to a huge crowd in Rome as part of a series on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. This one was about knowledge (to paraphrase, don’t be a dumbass; take care of the Earth!). Here’s the meat of the pope’s address:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Why do you have to walk a mile to cross these streets?

Forget chickens and their unfunny reasoning behind road-crossing. The real question is, why do you have to walk so far to safely cross certain roads? In Burlington, Mass., you have to walk 1.2 miles to find a crosswalk between the Burlington Mall and the AMC cineplex, even though they’re right across the street from each other.

burlington-uncrossable-road
Streetsblog

“So what? I had to hop 10 miles uphill to school with both my feet in a burlap sack,” you say. Or maybe “Just jaywalk already!” But the conundrum hammers home a point we often harp on here at Grist: Cities too often are designed with cars in mind, not pedestrians (or cyclists).

The ridiculous Burlington walk is one of the candidates Streetsblog found for Least Crossable Street in America. Explains Streetsblog:

In most American cities you can find streets that turn what should be short, easy walking trips into excursions so long and humiliating that you might as well drive. Or, if you don’t have that option, you can take your chances playing a high-stakes game of Frogger.

Here are a couple of the most egregious candidates:

Read more: Cities, Living

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Yes Men fool college students into thinking their school divested from fossil fuels

Igor Vamos in a 2007 prank in Alberta, Canada
ItzaFineDay
Igor Vamos, one half of The Yes Man, in a 2007 prank.

College students are speaking up loud and clear: They want their schools to cease investing in fossil fuels. (Sometimes this even happens in rap form!) At least 11 colleges and universities have committed to dirty energy divestment so far, including Stanford. And now Oregon hippie haven Reed College is divesting too!

Only ... it isn’t. The announcement came during a commencement speech on Monday by 1990 Reed grad Igor Vamos:

I was very pleased to learn that the board of trustees of Reed College has just now decided to divest the school’s $500 million endowment from fossil fuels! ... But what they’re doing with the money is what’s most interesting: They’re pulling the money from those industries, and they’re re-investing it in community-owned, renewable energy projects.

YAY! Except that Vamos is one half of political prankster duo The Yes Men, and he was just tugging Reed’s chain. But wouldn’t that have been awesome? Students thought so, giving the announcement a standing ovation. Seeing that Reed has committed to sustainability and invested $5.4 million in cutting the school’s carbon emissions, divestment is a logical next step.

Vamos urged students, in all seriousness, to think of the future:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living