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These cute $40 watches can run forever on sunlight

Tattoos mean they're hipster approved.
Q&Q
Tattoos mean they're hipster approved.

If you aren’t a tiny doll with a miniature screwdriver, getting a dead watch battery replaced is the worst. Not only do you have to hunt down that little old man in the jewelry store, but you become even later than usual -- or is that just me? The hip SmileSolar watch slices through those excuses like a timekeeping Zorro by running completely on the sun:

solarsmile-solar-powered-watch
Q&Q

Citizen Eco-Drive solar watches may be out of your price range (not that you can’t afford a $325 watch, Kanye), but thankfully its more affordable imprint, Q&Q, sells the SmileSolar for only $40. The watches used to only be available in Japan, but as with cat cafés, our patience has been rewarded. ME-OW:

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Eat your heart out, Rome: This 3D-printed village was built in a day

house-3d-printed-shanghai-12
3Ders.org

To review: In the world of sustainable real estate, they’re making hobbit houses out of straw bales, outfitting old shipping containers with green roofs and compostable toilets, and now, using 3D printers to build cottages. It can be hard to keep up, we know.

In Shanghai, the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co created a tiny village using little more than an enormous 3D printer. The printer produced the houses’ walls, roof, and floors, which were then manually assembled. The layers of concrete used to create each component were partially made from recycled construction and industrial waste.

WinSun claims to have constructed the entire village, which includes 10 houses, in less than a day.

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20 percent of the tricolored blackbirds on Earth are in imminent danger — but you can help save them

Blackbird_tricolored_male_summer_california_monte-m-taylor
Tsuru8

The tricolored blackbird is pretty rare -- populations have rebounded since they were first classified as endangered, but there are still fewer than 250,000 of them on the planet (up from 35,000 in the '90s). Which means it's really, really serious that a flock of 50,000 tricolored blackbirds is under imminent threat. That's 20 percent of the extant population.

The birds are nesting in a private field, which is due to be harvested tomorrow to feed dairy cattle. (Agriculture encroaching on their habitat constitutes the biggest threat to tricolored blackbirds.) Luckily, you can help them. The Audubon Society is trying to raise enough funds by tomorrow to remove the birds from danger, and you can sponsor a bird for a dollar -- or five birds for $5, or four-and-twenty blackbirds for four-and-twenty dollars, or 100 tacos for $100. Wait, not that last one.

5-dollars-5-birds

Read more: Living

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This fancy fridge makes your kale even more nutritious

nutrilight-refrigerator-electrolux
Electrolux

The NutriLight can’t make your produce last forever, but it’s pretty close. The fridge lighting system, developed by Electrolux, uses “a patented fixed wave treatment that evenly distributes light around the crisper to boost the vitamin content of fruits and vegetables,” according to the company.

The energy-efficient NutriLight only pours beneficial ray-beams onto your veggies, not UV or ultrared rays that would suck out the vitamins. (Vitamin C and antioxidants dwindle in fruits and vegetables within a few days.) With this fridge, “essentially, synthetic photosynthesis is occurring in your crisper drawer,” as Modern Farmer puts it.

Read more: Food, Living

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Pennsylvania officials have no idea how to assess health threats of fracking

frackwell_marcellusshale
WCN 24/7

Could it be that frackers are die-hard Ravens fans? That might explain their cavalier attitude about the health of citizens in Steeler Country.

Kidding! Money is the motive, yinz -- and if Pennsylvanians are exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in the making of it, who cares?

An alarming new study by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, published in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, finds that current methods and tools used to measure harmful emissions from fracking wells don’t accurately assess health threats -- not even close, in fact.

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Smoggy Chinese city offers residents bags of fresh air

woman-oxygen-mask-air-breathe-flickr
Clear Communication People

In what totally sounds like a Spaceballs-inspired April Fools’ joke, a travel company shipped bags of fresh air to highly polluted Zhengzhou, China, for residents to enjoy. The stunt was promoting tourism to Laojun Mountain, an area 120 miles away that's full of mushrooms, monkeys, and apparently quite clean air.

Up to 20 people at a time could slurp the good stuff through oxygen masks for a few minutes before someone else got a turn (the Wall Street Journal has photos). State-run China News Service reported that some people even tried to wring every last breath out of the air-pillows, and a pregnant lady supposedly felt her baby kick when she started breathing the clean stuff.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Amazon and Twitter are dirty dirty scoundrels, says Greenpeace

Digital darlings like Apple, Google, and Facebook have one more thing to brag about: high marks from a new Greenpeace report about clean energy. But on the other end of the spectrum, Amazon and Twitter flunked big time.

The report -- “Your Online World: #ClickClean or Dirty?” -- grades some of the web’s biggest sites on four metrics: transparency, policy, energy efficiency, and green advocacy. Amazon and Twitter each got three F’s and one D (see ya in summer school, suckers). Everyone’s fave microblogging site earned these harsh words from Greenpeace:

Twitter remains at the bottom of the industry for energy transparency, disclosing no information about its energy footprint. Twitter lags behind its competitor in social media, Facebook, which took significant steps to increase transparency and increase its use of clean energy soon after it went public.

twitter-energy-sources-greenpeace-2014
Greenpeace

ZING. And Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- which owns your buddies Netflix, Pinterest, and Spotify -- got major shade:

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Snow Daze

Biking the Iditarod? Climate change makes for faster times

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Glenn

It takes a special kind of person to want to bike 1,000 miles through the dead of winter in Alaska (being hard as nails, or Iceman, helps). But if you're going to do it, at least now you'll get a little boost from global warming. Bicyclists on this year’s Iditarod Invitational -- the foot and bike race on the same frigid route as the infamous dog sled event in Alaska (people do the weirdest things in the name of fun) -- smashed records. And not because of doping: Less snow just made the course a little easier. Thanks, climate change!

Some thought it would be pretty much impossible for anyone to break Mike Curiak’s 2000 record of biking the course in 15 days (and not because contestants would suddenly wise up to the fact that biking 1,000 miles through snow is, well, miserable). But this year Jeff Oatley, Aidan Harding, and Phil Hofstetter finished the race in 10, 11, and 12 days, respectively.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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This 92-year-old who got arrested for protesting coal is our new hero

Bill Ryan is a World War II vet, climate activist, and total badass.

That's him in the green checked shirt.
Greenpeace/Leard Forest Alliance
That's him in the green checked shirt.

Whitehaven Coal is destroying part of eastern Australia’s Leard State Forest in order to open a $767 million coal mine, which’ll pump out about 15 million tons* of coal annually. So the 92-year-old joined 150 others in peacefully protesting the mine, locking themselves to tree-clearing equipment.

bill-ryan-protesting-coal-mine
Greenpeace/Leard Forest Alliance

Several hours later, the cops arrived on the scene and started snapping on the handcuffs. Ryan snagged a trespassing charge, but he was undaunted and wrote a powerful essay in the Guardian about why he protested.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Ask Umbra: Is it OK to recycle bottles that have been full of chemicals?

household-cleaning-bottles-cropped
Shutterstock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Is it safe to recycle plastic jugs that previously held toxic substances? Would the residue from a bottle of automotive antifreeze or household cleaner transfer to next plastic product after recycling? I've thought about washing out the bottles before recycling, but I don't really want to put this into the wastewater system either. Obviously, not using these products is the best way around this problem.

Jon
Lincoln, Neb.

A. Dearest Jon,

I’m so glad you asked. A well-meaning person who tosses the wrong item into a recycling bin can do more harm than good -- especially when the item in question may contain toxic residue that can harm waste managers or contaminate other recyclables.

Nobody likes the idea of hazardous chemicals around the house, but many of us may end up harboring some anyway, whether it’s antifreeze, lawn pesticides, drain cleaners, or even nail polish. As you note, Jon, the best thing to do is avoid these products altogether, but more on that in a bit. For now, we’ve got a few jugs to deal with.

Read more: Living