The Brightside Blog: volume 1
In our Brightside Blog series, Point 6 will be trying to inject a bit of joy, dish out some delight and serve up some smiles by rounding up a few of our favourite good news stories from around the world. Enjoy!
Biodegradable cutlery is more than a drop in the ocean
One of the most disturbing recurring images to come out of the climate crisis is masses of plastic swimming in our seas. Whenever we discard a plastic bottle, or a straw, or a shopping bag, the sad reality is that only around 10% of it is recycled. The rest usually ends up in either landfill or the ocean.
But this is supposed to be the Brightside Blog! And while there’s still a long way to go, a Californian company has made a significant breakthrough that could change the tide.
Newlight, the masterminds behind the innovation, have worked out a way to use ocean microorganisms to convert the methane found in the ocean into physical material. The creation of ‘Air Carbon’, the name they’ve given to the game-changing product, is inspired by the way plants photosynthesise greenhouse gases and has been labelled “the most important innovation of the year” by the boffins at Popular Science. Air Carbon cutlery is biodegradable since it’s formed from natural gases found in the ocean.
It’s a move that could dramatically reduce the glut of single-use plastics that make their way into the ocean and contribute to that uncomfortable image we’re often presented with. And Newlight isn’t stopping at cutlery either — it’s dipping its toe into the world of fashion, with sunglasses and wallets being produced from Air Carbon.
Drug trial gives hope to MS sufferers
Anyone familiar with multiple sclerosis, or MS, knows how horribly debilitating it can be. All humans have something called the myelin sheath that protects the nerves around our brain and spinal cord. In MS patients, this myelin sheath is incorrectly targeted by immune cells, causing life-changing cell degeneration and disability.
But scientists from the University of Cambridge have made an encouraging discovery that gives hope to MS sufferers. The cancer drug, bexarotene, can actually regenerate the myelin sheath.
Despite the obvious optimism around this breakthrough, researchers are keen to manage expectations. Bexarotene has some serious side effects, making it impossible to use as an MS treatment itself. However, we now know that this regeneration of the myelin sheath, or ‘remyelination’, is possible — and that’s a good start!
Professor Alasdair Coles from the University of Cambridge suggests we’re right to hope for the best: “This discovery gives us confidence that we will stop MS, and will swiftly be taken forward into further studies trialling other potential new myelin repair treatments”.
Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, which means that lots of smart people set on saving the planet are already putting their bright minds to finding a solution.
Enter ZeroAvia, a London and California based aviation company who have just launched (and landed!) the world’s first zero-emission, hydrogen-powered plane. This achievement is the first step to realizing the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen as the primary energy source for commercial aviation.
The next goal is to complete a 250-mile round trip — roughly the equivalent of a flight from London to Edinburgh, or Los Angeles to San Francisco — in the same plane. Who knows, it might not be too long before hydrogen-powered flights become the norm and we can finally bid bye-bye to those ozone-battering long hauls.
By now, most of us are used to buying recycled products in some form. Lots of stationery is made from reused materials these days, and furniture production is now heading the same way. But what if we told you that there was a shop in Berlin that only sold recycled products?
That’s right, B Wa(h)renhaus — apparently, it’s a pun on the German words for ‘department store’ and ‘conserving house’, we’ll take their word for it — has committed to selling only second-hand goods. We’re talking about the kind of stuff that big retailers would throw away but are still in good condition, from furniture and clothing to electronics and homeware.
These stores are just the latest addition to Berlin’s impressive sustainability resumé. Since 2008, city policies and educational campaigns have reduced average annual household waste by about 11kg per resident. It also recycles around 49% of its mineral construction waste, such as brick and concrete.
Keep up the good work, Berlin!
School kids nose best
Comic Relief, the charity behind the famous ‘Red Nose Day’, has pledged to ditch the plastic from its famous red noses in time for the March 2021 TV fundraising extravaganza. But who was behind the campaign for sustainable snouts? Leading scientists? Impassioned activists?
In fact, it was school kids up and down the country writing letters and emails to charity co-founder, Richard Curtis, that sparked the change. The mighty Sir David Attenborough even backed the appeal, with Curtis assuring that the inspiring pupils “definitely made a difference”.
The new red noses will be made from bagasse, a natural by-product of sugar cane.
Check back next month for another healthy dose of happiness! And in the meantime, be sure to follow us on Instagram.