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Sarah Parsons' Posts

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McDonald’s ditches Styrofoam … maybe

McDonald’s may be getting a little less evil … maybe … I guess … if consumers really, really want it to. The fast food behemoth recently announced plans to swap out Styrofoam cups for paper ones at 2,000 of its stores. If customers respond well to drinking their bargain coffee out of greener vessels, the Golden Arches will start using paper cups at all of its 13,000+ restaurants.

In the stores where the paper cups are being used, customers who order a hot beverage will now get it in a double-walled fiber hot cup. McDonald’s will be looking at “consumer acceptance, operation impact, and overall importance.”

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Global warming affects penguins’ sex lives

Nobody likes to be rushed during sex, but climate change is forcing some penguin species to reschedule business time. Wednesday night is no longer the night for love! Now you do it on Monday OR YOU DIE OUT.

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Farmers to use spider venom to protect crops

Farmers and bugs typically have a hate-hate relationship. Insects eat up valuable wheat, barley, and soybeans, and farmers slay them dead using an arsenal of chemical weapons (a.k.a. pesticides). But no longer. Australian growers may soon form an alliance with their new best buggy friends: spiders.

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience found that tarantula, orb spider, and funnel web spider venom actually makes a super-effective, all-natural pesticide. Not only that, but scientists envision using the earth-friendly spider venom to control agricultural pests and wipe out disease vectors like mosquitoes.

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Human wings: The green answer to air travel

Forget subways, trains, and bikes -- those are old hat compared to what we’re about to tell you. Meet the new green form of transportation: strapping on human bird wings and flying through the air with the greatest of ease.

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Pig ears and donkey butts: 5 foods that could save the world

Photo by Laura Billings.

Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, eats some pretty strange dishes. Now, he wants you to do the same in the name of saving the world:

You can change the world one plate at a time. If we can take better advantage of the global pantry and eat from a wider variety of choices we would do more to combat food poverty, our damaged food production system, obesity and other systemic health and wellness issues than any one single act I can imagine. Here are some suggestions, but be creative. It works.

Here are the five foods he suggests we all start stuffing our faces with:

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Soon, your toilet could heat your apartment building

Now you can dump energy waste just by, well, taking a massive dump. Green tech company OriginOil is working on a project that uses toilet wastewater as a way to heat apartment buildings.

OriginOil, a start-up based in Los Angeles, CA., has begun a pilot of its urban algae farm concept at the La Défense complex near Paris. Wastewater from buildings nourishes algae growth; algae is processed to make heat. The company is attempting to prove that integrating algae production into large building complexes will help bring them closer to net zero.

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Need a ride? Check out London’s mobile bike library

Photo by London Bicycle Library.

A bus and a library make most people think of boring days locked inside a school -- unless that bus holds an AWESOME mobile bike library! Meet London’s Bicycle Library: This roving bike provider lets Londoners “check out” a bike, just as they might check out a book from a public library (although the bike library requires a small deposit, too).

The librarians provide on-site expertise to teach you about the art and science of bicycles. There’s even a bicycle matchmaking service where a librarian can match you with your true love on two wheels. Given that you can choose from folding, MiniVelo, "fixies" (Fix Gear Single Speed), Ladies Coaster, Mens Coaster, cargo, and electric bicycles, there’s no excuse for not finding something that works for you.

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Engineer wants to stop Arctic warming with a cloud-whitening machine

Painting your roof white can (maybe) reflect enough heat to save a year’s worth of emissions. So painting the clouds white should be able to reflect enough heat to stop global warming, right? At least, that’s the theory recently put forth by an eminent U.K. engineer who wants to “whiten clouds” to prevent Arctic ice loss.

Engineer Stephen Salter wants to build massive “cloud-whitening” towers in the Faroe Islands or on islands in the Bering Strait in order to keep Arctic temperatures from climbing.

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Study: GMO crops are killing butterflies

Photo by David Slater.

We’re all familiar with Big Ag’s bad reputation of picking on small-scale and organic farmers. Now Monsanto and its cronies are beating up an even more innocuous set of victims: beautiful, defenseless monarch butterflies.

A new study from the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University fingers Monsanto’s genetically modified corn and soybean crops as the culprit behind monarch butterflies’ declining populations.

Between 1999 and 2010, the same period in which so-called GMO crops became the norm for farmers, the number of monarch eggs declined by an estimated 81 percent across the Midwest, the researchers say.

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Navy’s new training area may harm endangered whales

Photo by the Department of Sustainability & Environment.

Right whales may get screwed for being in the right place at the wrong time. That’s because the U.S. Navy wants to build a $100 million offshore training range in the very same area as the endangered whales’ regular swimming zone. Ah yes, the age-old battle of whales versus sailors -- I seem to recall this usually ends with someone getting eaten, and it isn’t a whale.

The Navy wants to install an undersea array of cables and sensors for training warships, submarines and aircraft about 50 miles off the Atlantic coast of southern Georgia and northern Florida. Environmentalists have sued to block the project, saying it's too close to waters where right whales migrate near shore each winter to birth their calves.

A coalition of environmental organizations is suing to block the training range, claiming that the Navy approved the facility before finishing up its study of how often right whales visit the 500-square-mile site. The suit went before a federal judge yesterday, but no decision has been made either way yet.