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Sarah Miller's Posts

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Not satisfied with destroying crops, the drought is now ruining quaint local traditions

If flowers are supposed to make a room more cheery, I think we're doing something wrong.

Prepare yourself for the sort of sad, super-local news that makes the fact that the world is ending such a bummer. A flower show in Butte County, S.D., sucked this year because there wasn’t enough water to grow any really good flowers. We all know climate change is ruining the Earth in general, but ruining small-town flower shows just seems mean.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Crude oil made out of pig poo is totally going to save our bacon

This may look like an ordinary pig butt, but it's a fuel-generating machine. (Photo by Travis S.)

One pig produces about eight pounds of manure a day. (Try not to think how many Reader’s Digests it might go through if it eliminated sitting on a toilet -- you’ll just gross yourself out.) Anyway, that’s a lot of waste. But now, thanks to scientists at the University of Illinois, it might represent a lot of precious, vehicle-propelling, revenue-producing crude oil.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Honda Miimo is basically a Roomba for your lawn

Can you imagine just being able to sit around and watch television all weekend on your massive energy-sucking flat screen while someone else niftily, sustainably, mowed your lawn? Someone you didn’t have to pay? Someone you didn’t even have to talk to, because they’re a little tiny automatic lawn mower, which is, when you get down to it, so much more useful than a person anyway?

Read more: Living

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New clean energy plant will run on used cooking oil

In Shoreham, on the south coast of England, they're building a clean energy plant that will operate on basically the same fuel as your biodiesel-retrofitted Jetta. The plant will burn used cooking oil, tall oil pitch (whatever that is), animal tallow, and waste vegetable oils to potentially provide as many as 20,000 Brits with power for their tellies, their electric kettles, and their weird little heating units that don’t really make you very warm.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Swiss can now brag about neutrality, cheese, and a tree museum

If you were a tree, could you think of a better life than living with 2,000 other trees on the grounds of a 14th century Swiss monastery? Well, I have no idea what trees like, so maybe not -- but if that sounds good to a tree, it is now possible. The Tree Museum, which opened this week outside of Zurich, is the creation of Swiss landscape architect Enzo Enea.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Glow-in-the-dark solar bikes = rad

The Burbank, Calif., company Pure Fix Cycle has created a bike that glows in the dark. Not only does it glow, it glows green. If anyone hits you while you are riding this bike, provided you are still alive, you would be totally within your rights to scream at them, “Are you blind?” and they would, quite honestly, probably have to confess that yes, perhaps they were.

Read more: Cities

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Starbucks is turning leftover scones and coffee grounds into useful stuff like plastic

Wow that is so awesome that my green tea latte is going to become a hair dryer. (Photo by Daniel R. Blume.)

You know when you’re watching a movie with a really bad screenplay, and to show that a character (generally female) is super annoying, they have her go into a Starbucks and order something like a triple foam half-caf no fat sugar-free hazelnut etc.? Well, this cinematic trope is officially dead, because now that character isn't a demanding harpy. She's a humanitarian. Because now the waste generated by her drink is going to be recycled into useful stuff like plastic and laundry detergent.

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These floor tiles let you generate energy just by walking around

Photo courtesy of Pavegen.

Just in case you thought the only thing going on at the London Olympics was Ryan Lochte getting laid and people complaining about some poor girl’s hair, well, there was actually much more happening right under people's noses. Or, more accurately, under their feet. Great (literal!) strides in renewable energy history were being taken, by way of an emerging technology called footfall harvesting.

Inventor Laurence Kemball-Cook, a 26-year-old industrial design engineer, created a tiled walkway from the West Ham underground station to Olympic Park. The walkway looked ordinary enough, but the tiles were capable of converting the force of people’s footsteps into electricity -- more than enough electricity to keep the walkway streetlamps illuminated at full power all night, and at half power during the day.

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Farmers are dealing with corn shortages by feeding cows candy instead

Looks like Irene needs to lay off the strawberry Starburst.

If you’re one of those freaky health-obsessed people who worries about the fact that cows eat so much corn -- what’s the big deal, it’s not like their genetic code has been manipulated to the point where it might cause horrible disease — you might be happy to know that cows are now eating candy instead.

They're not going trick-or-treating ("I'm a water bison!"), and they're not sneaking it out of the Special Naughty Drawer at night, either. Farmers are giving the candy to cows because the drought has raised corn prices to prohibitive levels.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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This man knows when you’re lying about honey

Don't even try to lie to me about honey, son. (Photo by Jay B. Sauceda.)

Did you know that people sell fake honey? They take supermarket honey and try to pass it off as fancy stuff you get for $30 at a farmers market. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Luckily they don’t always get away with it, thanks to honey detective Vaughn Bryant. By day, he’s an anthropologist, and a regular user of honey. By night, or maybe just some other days, he’s a melissopalynologist -- an expert on pollen.

Read more: Food