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It’s Earth Day: Here’s Some Good Green News
April 22, 2013
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Home sweet home (Photo: Getty)

Happy Earth Day, everyone.

Each year on April 22, an estimated one billion people around the world get into the spirit of protecting this pale blue dot we call home.

Earth Day started in 1970 in the U.S., with 20 million people taking part in teach-ins about environmental pollution.

Since then, it's gone global, as people around the world hold events and work together to make progress on climate change and saving the planet.

If you want to get involved, Earth Day Canada has a list of green events across the country today and in the coming weeks. Visit the Earth Day Canada site to see what's happening in your area.

In the spirit of the day, here's some stories about people using innovative thinking, scientific breakthroughs and hard work to make a positive impact on the environment.

Turning Cooking Fat And Oil From The Sewers Into Electricity
A "fatberg" from London's sewers (Photo: BBC)

You know how you're not supposed to pour cooking fat or oil down the drain? There's a good reason: it builds up in there, and it can end up creating serious clogs.

In fact, there's a word for the large globs of grease that build up in sewers: fatbergs.

Well, London, England has found an ingenious use for those fatbergs - converting them into electricity.

And there's a lot of grease available. According to the BBC, the excess fat and oil will be fed into a power station in east London, and will produce enough energy to run 39,000 average-sized homes each year.

Huge Solar-Powered Hospital Opening In Haiti

This coming Sunday, a 200,000 square-foot hospital is due to open in Mirebalais, Haiti.

The Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM) is Central Haiti's first-ever teaching hospital, and it will serve 500 patients each day.

It's also a great example of sustainable building design.

The roof includes 1800 solar panels, which will produce 140 megawatt hours of electricity on a bright day. That's more than 100 per cent of the hospital's power requirements, meaning excess energy can be fed into Haiti's inadequate national power grid.

As well, the building has natural lighting and ventilation, water-efficient plumbing, and highly effective wastewater treatment. And it retains some distinctly Haitian features, like a wall of medallions crafted by local metalworkers.

Proof that it's possible to care for people and the planet at the same time.

Making Food Out Of Non-Edible Plant Cellulose
Y.H. Percival Zhang, assoc. professor of biological systems at Virginia Tech (Photo: Virginia Tech)

One of the major challenges facing the planet is how to feed everyone in a sustainable way. And with an estimated nine billion of us expected by 2050, that's only going to get more difficult.

Researchers from Virginia Tech have developed a process that may allow them to turn inedible parts of plants (like corn husks, or a tree branch) into a food source.

The bioprocess reconfigures the chemical structure of those parts of the plant that can't be eaten, turning them into an edible substance called amylose.

Apparently, amylose is a source of dietary fibre and has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.

The process is environmentally friendly: it doesn't require excessive heat or toxic chemicals, it doesn't generate waste, and it could reduce the amount of irrigation and land needed for crops.

The $300 House

What started as a blog post has become a collaborative project with the goal of designing sustainable, safe housing for people in the world's poorest places.

Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar posed the question: can we design a house that costs $300 or less, but that will keep a family safe from the weather, let them sleep and night, and offer them more dignity?

According to the $300 House website, it's about more than just a dwelling: it's about giving the poor "a chance, a real chance, to make it out of poverty."

The article got so much attention it spawned a contest (which interestingly received 300 entries) to come up with strategies to make the idea a reality.

The Mahindra Group, a big corporation in India, is on board - having already built planned villages and communities with sanitation, water, toilets, solar power and recreation areas.

For more, check out Christian Sarkar's TEDxGateway talk.

U.S. Republicans And Democrats Are Working Together On An Energy Efficiency Bill
Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) (Photos: AP)

Here's something we don't often see: a Democrat and a Republican in the U.S. Senate working together, to come up with an energy efficiency bill. And they say it actually has a chance of becoming law.

According to Politico, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act "focuses on improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings, the manufacturing sector and the federal government."

Another bipartisan pair will push a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives: David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are working together to try and get an energy efficiency law on the books.

Lately, there haven't been too many stories of the two major U.S. parties working together - so in the spirit of Earth Day, let's hope this one comes together and makes an impact.


Happy Earth Day!

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