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Seventh Generation, Timberland and Others to Bring Green Chemistry to the Mainstream

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Seventh Generation, Timberland and Others to Bring Green Chemistry to the Mainstream

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Companies and researchers involved with green chemistry wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of the concept.

They fully acknowledge that the idea has yet to garner the recognition or public investment that renewable energy and green building have earned. As a result, 10 businesses and organizations from the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) have banded together to mainstream the form of chemistry that combines molecular development with sustainability.

The businesses working on the collaborative project include Timberland, Seventh Generation and Valspar.

"Bringing green chemistry into the mainstream means making it standard practice throughout the economy so that all chemistry is, by default, green chemistry," reads a blog on GreenBiz.com co-written by Amy Perlmutter, leader of the Council's mainstreaming project.

The group will look to advance green chemistry in the retail, higher education and supply chain sectors. The final roadmap for the promotion of green chemistry—to be presented in May—will include insights from chemical feedstock producers, manufacturers, brands and retailers at GC3 member companies regarding how they develop and implement green chemistry, and what has helped or hurt that process.

Perlmutter and Monica Becker, a sustainability consultant, define green chemistry as "the design, manufacture and application of chemical products that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances." They pointed out two examples of green chemistry—Segetis created a solvent with waste wood trimmings and corn stalks used in Seventh Generation and Method cleaning products for a performance that was unprecedented in the industry. Cargill won a 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Award for developing a transformer fluid with vegetable oil that lacks the toxicity of  mineral oil-based fluids and is less flammable and has a lower carbon footprint.

With the the help of the Green Chemistry Checklist, developed by the Dow Chemical Company, the Ecology Center and other members of the Michigan Green Chemistry Roundtable, the women say companies who espouse green chemistry as a standard will:

 Green chemistry products and processes are a primary goal of the organization  
• Regularly track progress toward green chemistry goals, including greening product lines 
• Embed green chemistry design criteria in product design guidelines each stage of development so designs are green from the "ground up"
• Include green chemistry criteria in relevant sourcing protocols, specifications and contracts
• Screen chemical ingredients for green chemistry attributes on a regular basis
• Devote research and development dollars to green chemistry innovation
• Commercialize products with green chemistry advantages instead of existing chemicals or products
• Support and train employees with green chemistry higher education programs

Seventh Generation, Timberland, Valspar and the other organizations will lead the charge, but all 80 members of the Council will take part.

Visit EcoWatch’s SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS page for more related news on this topic.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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