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20 posts from August 2013

August 29, 2013

Why a Shark-Attack Survivor Fights to Save Sharks

Shark Attack SurvivorsDebbie Salamone always considered herself an active person. She loved to ballroom dance, swim, and go to the beach.

One afternoon in 2004, Salamone was enjoying a swim at Cape Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. She was walking toward the shore in shallow water when, all of a sudden, a fish jumped up beside her. Alarms went off in Salamone's head because she knew that fish don't ordinarily do that. Something was terribly wrong.

Just as she was completing that thought, a shark appeared behind her. Due to a storm, the water was rather murky and unruly, but she could see its slithering silhouette. Scientists say it could have been a black tip or a spinner shark, but Salamone doesn't know for sure. The shark clamped down on her foot, and she instinctively kicked to get it off. It bit down even harder, severing her Achilles tendon. 

"That's when the terror started ripping through my body and I started screaming, 'It's got me! It's got me,'" says Salamone.

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August 27, 2013

Edible Opera: How Artists Turn Music into a Meal

Algae opera The opera may sound good, but it tastes even better — at least that's what artists Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta (Burton Nitta) think. Together, these masters of design and science have created the Algae Opera, which transforms a singer's voice into an edible experience.

In this installation, they use mezzo-soprano opera singer Louise Ashcroft to highlight humans' unique relationship with algae. The artists designed a special futuristic suit that collects the carbon dioxide exhaled as Ashcroft is singing. This carbon dioxide feeds algae, which  grows during the performances and is later prepared and served. The audience can literally taste her song! The singer has trained herself specially for this project so that she can further enhance her lung capacity to produce the best quality algae possible. The slightest changes in pitch and frequency can determine tone, color, texture, and even whether the algae will be sweet or bitter. 

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August 26, 2013

Solar Panels and the White House: A Brief History

White HouseThe White House recently announced plans to install solar panels on the esteemed presidential residence. The solar array reflects Obama’s promise to have 20% of the federal government’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Though this is commendable, Obama isn’t the first president to install solar panels on the White House. Here's a little history lesson:

Jimmy Carter
Carter is the first president to install solar panels on the White House. He fit 32 on the presidential residence in order to heat water. At the time, there was an embargo on Arab oil and the US was facing an energy crisis.

“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people,” predicted Carter in 1979.

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August 23, 2013

7 Literary Basics for Environmentalists

BookshelfYou wrapped up the Song of Fire and Ice series and can't bring yourself to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Why not indulge your green side, and learn something in the process? One of our Top 10 Cool Schools, UC-Santa Barbara, places such a high premium on the intersection of literature and the environment that it currently offers more than 30 undergraduate courses about the topic. For long-term research the university is your best bet, but if school is out reach, stock your shelf with these basics to get started.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Filled with both meditative, literary beauty and broad philosophical concepts, Thoreau used Walden to connect the personal to the environment. A product of Thoreau's stay in a self-built cabin near Massachusetts' Walden Pond, the book remains a touchstone for environmentalists.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Whether you're similar to Rachel Carson or not, the author's masterpiece is essential reading. Thoreau and Muir use gorgeous language to articulate their love for the environment, but Silent Spring takes a sharper approach, raising an alarm by highlighting the dangers of pesticides and other harmful substances. There's a reason the 1962 book helped to jumpstart the modern environmental movement.

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August 22, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: Green College Trends

Cool Schools Infographic

August 21, 2013

Blackfish: The Film Everyone Is Talking About

Killer Whale swimming in captivity

Blackfish, the highly anticipated documentary by director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite, has brought into question the ethics behind marine-wildlife captivity.

The film, released July 19, highlights the dangers of orca captivity while profiling Tilikum, a killer whale responsible for the deaths of several people, the most recent being that of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The film is hauntingly beautiful, juxtaposing scenes of wild orcas with orcas in captivity. It leaves viewers reflecting on the emotional capacity and intelligence of marine mammals, while remembering their own experiences in marine parks. It's no surprise it has generated the response it has among critics and fans alike.

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Unique Ways to Green Your College Dorm Room


Cellphone holder
Sierra’s "Repurpose" column provides step-by-step instructions for making this handy phone holder.
You're all set for your first day at one of our Coolest Schools, and it boasts efficient facilities, respected environmental student groups, and an eminent environmental sciences faculty. But what about the nuts and bolts of maintaining a green lifestyle in your new living quarters, the college dorm?


Simplify your life with environmental style.

College living presents young adults with tests of organization and efficiency on a daily basis. Why not enhance solutions to common problems with a green flair? For example, organizing chargers, cables, and the other manifestations of a digital lifestyle can be challenging —  cut an old plastic bottle in half to make a nifty holder for charging small electronic goods. Consumed with thoughts of midterms, extracurricular activities, and social events, keeping track of keys often becomes an afterthought for college students —  plus, some colleges fine students for misplacing or losing keys. With some wood and old keys, make a key rack to permanently solve this problem.

Start a mini-garden.

Living on the fifth floor of a dorm outfitted with fluorescent lights that reeks of Lysol and body odor can be a dreary experience. Spice things up — literally — by nurturing some plants on your windowsill (or, if you're ambitious, suspend them from the air). Flowers are great, but so are herbs. Fill in the culinary gaps of dining hall cooks by bringing some homegrown herbs to the table. You'll be the talk of the town, and your mystery meat will taste better, too. Dorm room spice gardens make for a trifecta of excellence: tastier food, pleasant aromas, and a pretty room.

Improve your desk area.

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August 19, 2013

Did Your Alma Mater Make Our Top 10 List?

Cool Schools cover 2013It's back-to-school season, which means that Sierra magazine has unveiled its seventh annual ranking of America's greenest universities. This year, the University of Connecticut took top honors. The number-one school offers more than 600 sustainability-related classes, produces its own honey, eggs, and seasonal produce on campus, and has cut its water use by 15% since 2005.

In addition to naming the Top 10 Coolest Schools, Sierra asked the question "Do Green Schools Matter?" We covered life-changing teachers and classes, examined how green education leads to jobs, reported on the newest on-campus activist movement, and compiled eco-scholarship opportunities. Our conclusion? At America's Coolest Schools, the future looks bright.

Check out the latest issue of Sierra magazine to find out if your alma mater made our list.

--Cover artwork by Harry Campbell

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Green Drinks: The Ultimate College Party Guide

red cupsThe only green concerns most college kids have upon setting foot in a party are the bottles of Heineken lining the counter and the emerald shirt their crush is wearing. On debaucherous fall evenings, thoughts of environmental activism may be fleeting. But maintaining a party's social appeal, while pleasing fellow collegiate environmentalists, is possible.

Neutralize pesky Solo cups.

In the realm of American partying, the red Solo cup reigns supreme. But, in addition to dulling your inhibitions, booze might lead you to forget just how detrimental these lightweight, liquor-holding receptacles are to the environment. Although Solo cups are cheap, some recycling centers don’t accept them, and decomposition can take hundreds of years. Still, solutions exist! For smaller gatherings, consider opening your cabinets to guests — after all, who cares about a few extra dishes if you’re saving the environment? If throwing a larger party — looking at you, bro — purchase Solo’s less-iconic, but environmentally-friendlier option instead. And, if you find yourself at a party with only red plastic cups, mark yours with your name and reuse it through the night.

Green stuff in your green cup.

So, you’ve upped the eco-friendliness of your drinking device — now what about its contents? Stay away from larger distribution beers, because many of them (like Heineken or Budweiser) use more water when brewing than their craft counterparts. However, one exception to the rule is Sierra Nevada, which places a premium on producing sustainable products. Meanwhile, plenty of distilleries embrace environmentally-friendly agendas. Most of these businesses achieve their goals by utilizing old-school techniques: organic, local ingredients, efficiently used.

Use bikes for power!

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August 16, 2013

Peruvian University Makes Water out of Thin Air

Water billboardMost of the time, billboards are used to sell new products, television shows, or government messages. However, in Lima, Peru, the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) and Mayo Advertising has used this publicity tool to provide people with a basic human right: drinking water.

Lima and its surrounding villages are located in one of the driest regions in the world. The annual precipitation rate is a close-to-nothing 0.51 inches so people resort to taking water from polluted wells. The dryness of the area is largely unrepresented in world news and politics. According to UTEC, Lima has 96% humidity but until now, nobody has seen the oasis that has been right in front of them all along. UTEC decided to take the moisture from the surrounding air and convert it into free, purified water. This billboard is located on the Panamerica highway, in the district of Mala and province of Cañete.

What started as a marketing technique for the university's admission process became a worldwide sensation. This simple yet innovative project serves the needs of the community and sheds light on the potential of an engineering degree.

Continue reading "Peruvian University Makes Water out of Thin Air" »

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