By Lorraine ChowHealth  10:58AM EST
World's First Giant Outside Vacuum Cleaner to Filter Dirty Air

A Dutch tech startup called Envinity Group has unveiled a giant outdoor vacuum cleaner designed to filter the tiniest toxic specks from the atmosphere.

The invention was presented at the Offshore Energy trade fair in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

"It's a large industrial filter about 8 meters (26 feet) long, made of steel ... placed basically on top of buildings and it works like a big vacuum cleaner," company spokesman Henk Boersen told AFP.

The firm describes their invention as the "world's first giant outside air vacuum cleaner," according to AFP.

"A large column of air will pass through the filter and come out clear," Boersen told AFP.

Envinity claims that their prototype can suck in air from a 300-meter radius and about seven kilometers (4 miles) upwards. Citing tests from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, the impressive machine can clean about 800,000 cubic meters (28,000 cubic feet) of air per hour using patented ozone-free ion technology. As a result, the vacuum can filter out 100 percent of fine particles and 95 percent of ultra-fine particles.

As Envinity states, fine particles and ultra-fine particles are indeed extremely harmful to public health, and can be a hindrance to national, regional and local investments and economic progress.

"Without really being aware of it, we breathe in small quantities of toxic particles from the surrounding air 24 hours a day. These are responsible for a great many health problems," Envinity notes on its website.

As EcoWatch observed previously, exposure to poor air quality is the world's fourth-leading threat to human health. An International Energy Agency study found that 6.5 million deaths globally are attributed to poor air quality.

According to Envinity, fine particles, or particles smaller than 10 micrometers, are linked to an increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular health problems. Ultra-fine particles, which are smaller than 0.1 micrometers, have an even greater impact on public health as they can damage the nervous system, including brain cells and also cause infections in the human body.

These toxic particles are the result of man-made pollution. Unregulated and poorly regulated energy production and use, as well as inefficient fuel combustion, are the "most important man-made sources of key air pollutant emissions," the International Energy Agency stated. Eighty-five percent of particulate matter—which can contain acids, metals, soil and dust particles—and almost all sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides can be linked back to those sources.

Boersen said that governments, businesses and airports have already expressed interest in the project.

"It might be a cliché, but we hope that we will be able to leave the world a better place than when we found it," Envinity Group co-founder Simon van der Burg told Dutch News.

By Climate NexusEnergy  08:29AM EST
U.S. Judge Approves Historic Settlement in Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

A U.S. federal judge approved a $14.7 billion settlement in the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal.

Yuankuei / Flickr

This is one of the largest consumer lawsuits affecting more than 475,000 diesel cars in the U.S. The settlement gives Volkswagen owners the option to sell their vehicle back or get a free fix.

"The settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate," U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer wrote in his order.

The German carmaker will also pay $4.7 billion for environmental programs and promotion of zero-emissions vehicles.

"Judge Breyer is making them pay the price. Volkswagen chose to poison our families with dangerous pollution just to pad its pocketbook," Kathryn Phillips, California director for the Sierra Club environmental group, said.

For a deeper dive:

Wall Street Journal, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Detroit News, USA Today, New York Times, NPR, Bloomberg

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

By Conscious CapitalismBusiness  09:56AM EST
Conscious Capitalism Boot Camp Comes to CLE

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more exciting in one of the nation's hippest cities, with the Cleveland Indians in the World Series and the CAVs season starting today, the Northeast Ohio Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, in partnership with the Conscious Venture Lab, is offering an intense day-long boot camp at Cleveland State University Oct. 27.

Capitalizing on the lessons learned by the team at the Conscious Venture Lab about growing high-performance, mission-driven businesses, attendees will take a deep dive into the tenets of conscious capitalism. The teams will be given new tools to take their companies to deeper impact and higher profitability. Attendees will also have the opportunity to win $10,000 at the Conscious Venture Lab Cup pitch competition following the boot camp sessions and EcoWatch's Facebook community will have front row seats.

EcoWatch's founder and CEO, Stefanie Spear, will be one of the judges. Starting at 4:30 p.m. ET, entrepreneurs will begin pitching their great business ideas and it will all be captured via Facebook live video, right here.

"We know entrepreneurship is the backbone of our economy," Jeff Cherry, executive director of the Conscious Venture Lab, said. "Attendees will learn how to execute new ways to take a business to the next level and build a company the matters."

The boot camp provides an intense and interactive day that helps companies:

  • Understand the power of purpose and articulate their own story
  • Learn tools and techniques for creating a high-performance culture
  • Internalize the lessons of servant leadership
  • Build a model that responds to all stakeholder needs, creating a mutual exchange of value

"We welcome this opportunity to bring new content and expertise to the Cleveland startup ecosystem," Bill Vogelgesang, one of the founders of the NEO Chapter of Conscious Capitalism, said. "This is an amazing opportunity for us bring financial and educational support, and to spread knowledge of a new narrative about how business can benefit society to some very talented, early-stage entrepreneurs."

Interested in attending the boot camp? Entrepreneurs can apply here. If you're just interested in the evening's pitch competition, you can register here.

This program is made possible thanks to the generous support of Conscious Capitalism NEO Chapter, Whole Foods Market, EPOCH Pi, The Cleveland Co-Lab, Fathom Digital Marketing, SEA Change, Case Western Reserve's Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, DittrickCPA, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Give Back Hack, Morton's of Chicago, Launch League and Cleveland State University.

By Lorraine ChowFood  10:35AM EST
In-Store Vertical Farms Coming to One of Nation's Largest Retailers

From Philadelphia's skyscrapers to the Windy City, vertical farms are sprouting in some of the most unlikely spaces. Soon, you might be able to pluck fresh, vertically grown greens right from your local Target.

According to Business Insider, the big box store is kicking off its vertical farming pilot project in a handful of U.S. stores in spring 2017. If the trials are successful, Target stores across the U.S. will likely start selling vertically-grown leafy greens with the possibility of in-house grown potatoes, beetroot, zucchini, peppers and even rare tomatoes down the line.

The ambitious project is part Target's Food + Future CoLab, a collaboration with MIT's Media Lab and international design firm IDEO, to explore urban farming, food transparency, supply chain issues and health.

"People like to say things like, 'the best strawberries come from Mexico.' But really, the best strawberries come from the climate in Mexico that creates expressions like sweetness and color that we like," said Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture initiative at MIT's Media Lab. "We think there is tremendous opportunity to democratize climate through control-environment agriculture and we look forward to kicking off this work with Target."

In the video below, Harper gives a tour of his "Food Computer" that creates the perfect climate to grow food.

EcoWatch has mentioned previously how vertical farms are an ideal food security solution, especially with Earth's rapidly changing climate and growing population. Produce is usually grown indoors with less water and without pesticides. In some of these indoor farms, produce is grown under LED lights that can mimic outdoor growing conditions and help accelerate plant growth. For swelling cities, vertical gardens help meet the demand for healthy food all year round, and usually with less food-miles to get from farm to plate.

"Down the road, it's something where potentially part of our food supply that we have on our shelves is stuff that we've grown ourselves," Casey Carl, Target's chief strategy and innovation officer, told Business Insider.

As Forbes reported, many industry insiders are exited about Target's new vertical farming initiative.

“Vertical farming is genius," Jasmine Glasheen, publishing editor of Off-Price Retailing Magazine commented on a RetailWire BrainTrust article. “Vertical farms are more resistant to climate changes and storms. Plus, the holistic aesthetic of an organic vertical farm will allow Target to compete for natural foods customers."

“I like the idea," added Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Research. “Even better, if they structurally could support it, would be growing this stuff on the roofs of the stores."

However, others have commented that this project might be too difficult and expensive to pull off.

"This is not a new idea," said Mel Kleiman, president of Humetrics. "Fiesta Supermarket built a store in Houston more than 30 years ago with a vertical garden. It looked great, got a lot of attention and cost a lot of money. Five years after they opened that store, the garden was gone."

"Good for marketing and PR, but the scalability, execution and ultimately the ROI (return on investment) may prove to be a significant challenge," Peter Sobotta, founder and CEO of Return Logic, wrote. "That said, I like the concept and it is a step in a good direction."

By Lorraine ChowEnergy  12:13PM EST
World's First Wind-Hydro Farm Supplies Power Even When There's No Wind

Germany will soon be home to a groundbreaking wind farm that solves a big problem with wind power: What happens when the wind isn't blowing?

Max Bögl Facebook

General Electric's (GE) renewable energy arm has signed a turbine-supply agreement with German construction company Max Bögl to develop the world's first wind farm with an integrated hydropower plant capable of generating power even when there's no breeze.

According to GE Reports, project "Gaildorf" consists of four wind turbines scattered along a hill in the Swabian-Franconian Forest. These towers are unique in two ways. First, they will stand at a record-breaking height of 584 feet once built. Second, at the base of each tower is a water reservoir containing 1.6 million gallons of water. The four towers are daisy chained by a channel that takes water down a valley to a 16-megawatt pump/generator hydropower plant. The site will house another reservoir holding 9 million gallons of water for additional water storage.

Here's how it all works, as GE Reports simply explains:

"The big idea here is that the wind will generate electricity when it's, well, windy, and the water will act as a giant battery that will discharge and modulate output when it stops blowing.

"When electricity is needed, water flowing downhill from the reservoirs will power the hydro plant. When the energy supply is high, the hydro plant will pump the water back up the hill to the reservoirs and will act as the giant battery."

The four wind turbines are connected by a channel that takes water down to a hydro plant.GE Reports

The beauty of this project is that stored hydropower can offset the unpredictability of wind power.

"The Gaildorf project marks a major step forward in balancing power demand and supply fluctuations using renewable energy sources," GE said in a statement. "The combined wind and hydropower plant will provide balancing power for fast-response stabilization of the grid, maintaining a low cost of electricity for residents in Germany."

The wind farm alone will generate 13.6 megawatts of energy while the hydropower plant can generate 16 megawatts. The turbines are scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2017. The Gaildorf project is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Max Bögl on this pilot project; a first for the industry," Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE's Onshore Wind business, said. "We are committed to exploring innovative renewable energy technologies that have the potential to improve grid flexibility in Europe and around the world."

As GE Reports noted, this innovative plant will help Germany move toward its goal of generating at least 45 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

By Lorraine ChowBusiness  07:34AM EST
World's First Self-Charging, Folding Electric Bike Never Runs Out of Juice

Electric bikes are a great way to zip around town with less pedal power, but they have two problems. First, the machinery can make them heavy or bulky. Second, at some point, they will run out of juice.

But Austria-based VELLO BIKE has solved these two problems with its innovative VELLO Bike+, the world's first self-charging electric folding bike that gives cyclists ultimate freedom.

The lightest self-charging folding e-bike in the world.VELLO BIKE

The bike claims to be lighter than most folding e-bikes on the market—the titanium model weighs about 24 pounds, and the chromoly frame model weighs 26 pounds.

It can easily fold down to just 72 x 53 centimeters, or suitcase size, making it easy to store in tight spaces, such as under a desk or in the trunk of a car. You don't even have to carry it—once folded it can also stand on its own, meaning you can just wheel it around. The bike's patented magnetic release makes it quick and easy to fold.

"A self-locking magnet allows hands-free folding, which makes it very different from a typical folding bike with complicated hinges to open," company co-founder and designer Valentin Vodev said. "They don't tend to be very user-friendly as the folding process is lengthy and can be frustrating."

Vodev was given a Red Dot award, an international product design and communication design prize, for the bike's innovative design.

"I always try to take a novel, previously unexplored approach in my designs. This mostly results in unconventional solutions, which I can then turn into innovations. In my opinion, design is a mixture of logic, aesthetics and art," he said of his work after being given the award.

As for its self-charging feature, the bike's integrated lithium-ion battery can be completely recharged just by pedaling or braking, the developers claim. Using its Integrated Kinetic Energy Recovery System, the VELLO Bike+ converts mechanical energy into electricity to power a 250-watt motor.


"You can ride up to 15 miles per hour for unlimited mileage in 'self-charging mode,' or in 'turbo mode' up to 18-30 miles on a full charge without any effort," the company says. "As soon as you stop pedaling, the motor will stop pushing. The generated power depends on several factors including the bike speed, the pedaling speed, the road slope and the selected power mode."

The bike comes with its own smartphone app with features such as a custom dashboard (to see your speed, miles, battery, etc) and an option to lock the bike remotely.

"Riding performance was also essential to us in the development of the VELLO BIKE+, it feels and rides better than most of the existing folding bikes on the market," Vodev said.

The VELLO Bike+ has already blown past its €80,000 ($87,863) Kickstarter goal with 18 days to go. Prices start at €1,599 ($1,756) on Kickstarter and will ship anywhere around the world.

Watch the bike in motion here:

By TakePartFood  09:39AM EST
Airline Takes Local Food Revolution to the Skies

By Sarah McColl

Much has been written about the JetBlue business class menu designed by Brad Farmerie, the executive chef of New York's Saxon + Parole. "I'm in love!" one blogger gushed over the in-flight meals, which are a departure from the usual airline fare: a deviled egg with house-made sambal, bison meatloaf with blueberry quinoa or grilled avocado salad with salsa verde.


Even in coach and in the airport terminal, JetBlue brings more to the tray table than those (damn tasty) blue corn chips. There is, for example, a flourishing farm growing potatoes, kale, dill and oregano outside Terminal 5 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

"Just because you booked an airline ticket doesn't mean you have a deep love of concrete," said Sophia Mendelsohn, JetBlue's head of sustainability, referring to the formerly gray expanse of concrete the airline's passengers used to look out at while sitting in Terminal 5—the area JetBlue "greenified" with the farm.

Her newest project operates under a similar ethos: "Just because you bought an airline ticket doesn't mean you want to eat junk food," she added. Or forget your social principles.

JetBlue is known for serving products from small, local New York food companies, such as Blue Marble Ice Cream and Brooklyn Roasting Company Coffee. Instead of hopefuls trying to get on board by cold calling the airline and sending samples, companies can apply to JetBlue's BlueBud business-mentoring program. The airline shares lessons it has learned over 18 years in social responsibility, sustainability and marketing. The program also looks at the challenges of serving food at 30,000 feet. Cabin pressure, altitude and dry air zap about 30 percent of our tasting powers. Then there's the tiny galley "kitchen." Farmerie fights against palate atrophy with vinegars, spices and Maldon sea salt and against space constraints with dry ice and sous vide cooking. BlueBud asks food companies to consider how their recipes might need to be adapted or the packaging changed to work in-flight.

"We'll walk you through how we look at food," Mendelsohn said, adding that there are plans to expand the program.

Hot Bread Kitchen was the first BlueBud participant. The company's bakers-in-training program helps prepare women for better-paying jobs in the culinary industry, while its retail arm sells breads from around the world, including nan-e qandi, heritage corn tortillas and naan. Hot Bread Kitchen's challah is now served in JetBlue's French toast.

At the end of the summer, Bronx Hot Sauce became the next small business invited into JetBlue's culinary world and the partnership has the potential to lift up people tending community gardens in the Bronx.

John A. Crotty, a Bronx Hot Sauce founder, works as an affordable housing developer by day. Through his work in the Bronx and the conversations he has had with people there, Crotty was struck with the way they told "the Bronx story."

"Everyone talked about the past and the present and nobody talked about the future," he said in a New York accent. "Why does nobody talk about tomorrow? I thought that was pretty shitty."

Crotty and his partners began to undertake projects in their buildings in the Bronx to inspire future thinking. There were education initiatives, arts programs and creative writing classes—but a vacant lot was what captured Crotty's imagination.

"It was such a shithole, for lack of a better term," he said. "There's garbage everywhere. It's awful. I said, 'This would be a spectacular place for a garden, right?'"

That garden planted the seeds for Bronx Hot Sauce. Since 2014, the business has distributed free serrano pepper seedlings to any interested community garden. At the end of the season, growers can sell the mature crop back to Bronx Hot Sauce for $4 a pound. This year, more than 40 gardens grew peppers for the hot sauce and Crotty said about one ton of peppers will be purchased from the community.

As Bronx Hot Sauce fans out from fancy little food shops in the city to tristate-area grocery stores—from Whole Foods to the JetBlue University cafeteria to a pop-up store in JFK's Terminal 5—Crotty thinks it can help people in the borough tell a new story in the future tense.

"When the people who work in the gardens—especially the younger people—see their product in big-time stores, it takes them out of the neighborhood they're in and puts them on a way bigger platform," he said. "It expands their universe very quickly." Even the sky is no limit.

Reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

By Lorraine ChowBusiness  01:28PM EST
SolarCity Will Pay Airbnb Hosts $1,000 to Go Solar

Airbnb hosts now have a major incentive to go solar. The home-sharing giant and SolarCity announced a new promotion today that will offer hosts up to $1,000 cash back if they install the solar company's panels.


The rebate is available to Airbnb hosts in the 19 states where SolarCity currently operates. Homeowners can choose the solar option that works best for their homes. The $1,000 offer is valid through March 31, 2017, after which it drops to $750 for the rest of the calendar year.

It was also announced today that new and current SolarCity customers who become Airbnb hosts will also get a $100 credit for a stay at an Airbnb property when they travel.

"Since 1998 we have had 15 of the 16 hottest years recorded and climate change is changing the way we make decisions—everyone is thinking about making better use of what we have," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global public policy and communications. "Travelers, especially millennials, want a more sustainable choice and homeowners want to make better use of the 13 million empty houses and 36 million empty bedrooms in the United States alone."

Travel can be an extremely carbon- and energy-intensive activity. Airbnb believes that staying at one of their rentals is better for the environment than staying at a typical hotel.

"Cleantech Group estimated that the average Airbnb guest night results in 61 percent less CO2 emissions as compared to a night in a hotel," Lehane said. The group also found that Airbnb travelers in the U.S. have saved 4.2 billions liters of water and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to keeping 560,000 cars off the road for a year.

"At the same time, Airbnb is an economic empowerment tool for hosts who can use their homes—typically their greatest expense—to share space and generate a little extra money to pay the bills," Lehane added.

Lehane explained on a press call today that the partnership makes sense because both SolarCity customers and Airbnb users tend to look for ways to lower their environmental footprint, TechCrunch reported.

Toby Corey, president of global sales and customer experience at SolarCity, said that the new partnership "will create the first opportunity for many Airbnb guests to stay in a solar-powered home, and allow them to experience first-hand how easy it is to use clean energy to contribute to a cleaner, healthier society."

SolarCity says that its solar systems offset an estimated 150 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution over its lifetime.

According to TechCrunch, Corey explained that since most of SolarCity's customers opt for the zero money down financing plan for installations, the $1,000 credit will be applied to their payback, reducing the overall repayment period.

The new partnership comes right before a shareholder vote on SolarCity's multibillion dollar merger with electric car company Tesla.

Tesla CEO and SolarCity chairman Elon Musk has an ambitious plan, dubbed Master Plan, Part Deux, of vertically integrating his two companies to seamlessly sell SolarCity's rooftop solar systems with Tesla's batteries.

By Carbon BriefClimate  11:23AM EST
'Trees on Steroids': Issam Dairanieh on Turning CO2 Into Products

By Sophie Yeo

How do you reduce CO2 emissions? The Global CO2 Initiative is pushing a unique approach: turn them into useful products, then sell them.

Based in San Francisco, the company has the ambitious aim to capture 10 percent of global CO2 emissions through carbon capture and usage. While this method is still in its infancy, the initiative aims to commercialize new ideas quickly by granting up to $100 million a year for 10 years to researchers developing viable new products. Its global advisory board includes Steven Chu, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Jeremy Oppenheim, program chair of the New Climate Economy project.

Carbon Brief spoke to Dr. Issam Dairanieh, the company's CEO, about his idea to tackle climate change through CO2 reuse. He explained what carbon capture and usage is, and how it could play a role in future efforts to reduce emissions:

"The idea here is go with what we call 'carbon negative technologies.' So think of trees on steroids. That's really what it is. So it is acceleration absorption of CO2 converted into products. Nature does it, does it very well, but does it slowly, and our solution says let's see what nature does, and do that extremely fast. So, instead of years, we want to do that in minutes. And the idea here is really all about developing and commercializing technologies that can absorb CO2 and convert it into useful products."

He spoke about the products that can be made using CO2 and their potential reduce emissions:

"The first product that we are going to invest in is making cement. So think about cement and concrete and how much is produced. It is probably the material that has the highest amount of any material that man makes, basically. Just this product contributes over 7 percent of the global emissions of CO2. We have identified a company that produces cement and concrete at a carbon footprint 70 percent less than what's currently done. So imagine what we can do with this. If you can replace everything we're doing right now with this new type of cement material, you will reduce global emissions by 5 percent, which is significant. What we have set out to do is, we said we want to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent a year. That's really our objective. And we think that just by adopting one technology we will be able to reduce it by half of our target."

He talked about how best to capture CO2 emissions to be used in products:

"Where we're going to start is where it's very easy to do so. So, if you go to power plants, CO2 is mixed with other things. The concentration can be anywhere between 3 percent and 12 percent, maybe 13 percent, but that's about it. However, if you go to different places, in a refinery where hydrogen is generated using something called methane reforming, when you do that, you generate pure CO2 that's just emitted. We think there is 100, 200 million tons of that that we can go to. The second area is if you look at how biofuels are made, when you ferment basically biomass and you end up with ethanol that's used in biofuels. As a byproduct, you get a stream which is 100 percent CO2, so you don't have to concentrate, you don't have to purify—it's there."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.