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Lights, Camera, Action: Cinema Verde's 2023 Festival Films and Sustainable Showcase are a Must-See!

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Cinema Verde is proud to announce its upcoming three-day Earth Day celebration, a series of events designed to inspire, educate and engage the local community in environmental stewardship. The event, which will take place from April 21st to April 23rd, includes a community clean-up, a sustainable showcase, and an awards dinner celebrating the best of green cinema. The first event, a community clean-up at Ashley Creek located just north of NW 19th Lane, will take place on April 21st from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The event is free to attend, and all necessary supplies will be provided by Keep Alachua County Beautiful, including gloves, bags, and tools. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the impact of waste on our environment and the ways we can all make a difference. Swampboil will host a kick-off reception at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate Cinema Verde and our filmmakers. The second event, a sustainable showcase and 2023 Cinema Verde festival films screening at Cypress & Grove, will take place on April 22nd from 4 pm to 7 pm. The event is free to attend and has been organized in partnership with #UNLITTER UF. The showcase will feature organizations and vendors, all with a shared commitment to protecting the environment and promoting social responsibility. Afterward, attendees can wind down at Cypress & Grove with a screening of select 2023 Cinema Verde festival films, which will run until 10 pm. Friends and family are welcome to attend for a great night of fun and learning. The third event, the Cinema Verde Earth Day Celebration Dinner at Passions Field, will take place on April 23rd from 4 to 8 pm. The exclusive event will celebrate the talented filmmakers who showcased their inspiring work during the February Cinema Verde festival. The dinner will be hosted at a beautiful flower farm, providing the perfect setting for an elegant and sustainable dining experience. Tickets are limited, and attendees are encouraged to secure their spot at the table today. As a token of appreciation, all tickets include an annual membership at Cinema Verde valued at $60. Bring a friend, and receive a half-price discount on your second ticket. The three-day Earth Day celebration promises to be an unforgettable experience, providing a platform to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices in the local community. Cinema Verde, with its long-standing commitment to environmental conservation, hopes to inspire individuals to make positive changes and live a more sustainable lifestyle. In conclusion, the upcoming Earth Day celebration hosted by Cinema Verde is a testament to the organization's unwavering commitment to environmental conservation. Through a series of inspiring events, including a community clean-up, a sustainable showcase, and an awards dinner, the organization aims to raise awareness, educate, and encourage individuals to take action in protecting the environment. The events are free to attend, with the exception of the Celebration Dinner, and participants are guaranteed a unique and unforgettable experience. The three-day celebration is a great opportunity to learn and engage with like-minded individuals and organizations committed to environmental sustainability.

Cinema Verde is hosting a three-day Earth Day celebration from April 21-23, 2023. The celebration includes a community clean-up event, a sustainable showcase, and a celebration dinner to honor the talented filmmakers who showcased their inspiring work during the February Cinema Verde festival.

Cinema Verde is proud to announce its upcoming three-day Earth Day celebration, a series of events designed to inspire, educate and engage the local community in environmental stewardship. The event, which will take place from April 21st to April 23rd, includes a community clean-up, a sustainable showcase, and an awards dinner celebrating the best of green cinema.

Ashley Creek in Gainesville, Florida

The first event, a community clean-up at Ashley Creek located just north of NW 19th Lane, will take place on April 21st from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The event is free to attend, and all necessary supplies will be provided by Keep Alachua County Beautiful, including gloves, bags, and tools. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the impact of waste on our environment and the ways we can all make a difference. Swampboil will host a kick-off reception at 6:30 p.m. to celebrate Cinema Verde and our filmmakers.

The second event, a sustainable showcase and 2023 Cinema Verde festival films screening at Cypress & Grove, will take place on April 22nd from 4 pm to 7 pm. The event is free to attend and has been organized in partnership with  #UNLITTER UF. The showcase will feature organizations and vendors, all with a shared commitment to protecting the environment and promoting social responsibility. Afterward, attendees can wind down at Cypress & Grove with a screening of select 2023 Cinema Verde festival films, which will run until 10 pm. Friends and family are welcome to attend for a great night of fun and learning.

The third event, the Cinema Verde Earth Day Celebration Dinner at Passions Field, will take place on April 23rd from 4 to 8 pm. The exclusive event will celebrate the talented filmmakers who showcased their inspiring work during the February Cinema Verde festival. The dinner will be hosted at a beautiful flower farm, providing the perfect setting for an elegant and sustainable dining experience. Tickets are limited, and attendees are encouraged to secure their spot at the table today. As a token of appreciation, all tickets include an annual membership at Cinema Verde valued at $60. Bring a friend, and receive a half-price discount on your second ticket.

Tickets are available for purchase via Eventbrite and must be purchased in advance.

The three-day Earth Day celebration promises to be an unforgettable experience, providing a platform to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices in the local community. Cinema Verde, with its long-standing commitment to environmental conservation, hopes to inspire individuals to make positive changes and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

In conclusion, the upcoming Earth Day celebration hosted by Cinema Verde is a testament to the organization's unwavering commitment to environmental conservation. Through a series of inspiring events, including a community clean-up, a sustainable showcase, and an awards dinner, the organization aims to raise awareness, educate, and encourage individuals to take action in protecting the environment. The events are free to attend, with the exception of the Celebration Dinner, and participants are guaranteed a unique and unforgettable experience. The three-day celebration is a great opportunity to learn and engage with like-minded individuals and organizations committed to environmental sustainability.

Read the full story here.
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First Wooden Satellite Will Test ‘Green’ Space Exploration

Japan’s LignoSat will test wood’s resilience in space and could lead to a new era of more sustainable, less polluting satellites

First Wooden Satellite Will Test ‘Green’ Space ExplorationJapan’s LignoSat will test wood’s resilience in space and could lead to a new era of more sustainable, less polluting satellitesBy Tim Hornyak & Nature magazineThe world's first satellite made from wood and named LignoSat, developed by scientists at Kyoto University and logging company Sumitomo Forestry, is shown during a press conference at Kyoto University in Kyoto on May 28, 2024. JiJi Press/AFP via Getty ImagesResearchers unveiled the world’s first wooden satellite last month, billing it as clearing a path for more uses of wood in outer space. The material will be more sustainable and less polluting than the metals used in conventional satellites, they say.Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan and the Tokyo-based logging company Sumitomo Forestry showed off the satellite, called LignoSat, in late May. The roughly 10-centimetre-long cube is made of magnolia-wood panels and has an aluminium frame, solar panels, circuit boards and sensors. The panels incorporate Japanese wood-joinery methods that do not rely on glue or metal fittings.Wood might seem counterintuitive for use in space because it is combustible — but that feature can be desirable. To curb the growing problem of space junk threatening spacecraft and space stations, rocket stages and satellites are deliberately plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere to burn up. But during combustion, they release particles of aluminium and other metals. Many more spacecraft launches are planned, and scientists have warned that the environmental effects of this pollution are unknown.On supporting science journalismIf you're enjoying this article, consider supporting our award-winning journalism by subscribing. By purchasing a subscription you are helping to ensure the future of impactful stories about the discoveries and ideas shaping our world today.When LignoSat plunges back to Earth, after six months to a year of service, the magnolia will incinerate completely and release only water vapour and carbon dioxide, says Takao Doi, an astronaut and engineer at Kyoto University, who is part of the research team. He points to other benefits of wood: it’s resilient in the harsh environment of space and does not block radio waves, making it suitable for enclosing an antenna.And there is a precedent for spacecraft with wooden parts. Launched in 1962, NASA’s Ranger 3 lunar probe had a balsa-wood casing intended to protect its capsule as it landed on the lunar surface (the probe malfunctioned, missed the Moon and began orbiting the Sun).Timber pioneersLignoSat will cost about US$191,000 to design, manufacture, launch and operate. Sensors onboard will evaluate strain on the wood, temperature, geomagnetic forces and cosmic radiation, as well as receive and transmit radio signals. The satellite has been handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and will be transferred to the International Space Station in September, before being launched into orbit in November.Takao Doi, an astronaut and special professor at Kyoto University, holds the world's first satellite made from wood and named LignoSat.JiJi Press/AFP via Getty ImagesGrowth has been slow for the project, which began in 2020 with speculation about the wider potential for wood in space for better sustainability.“In our first conversations, Dr Doi proposed we build wooden housing on the Moon,” says team member Koji Murata at the biomaterials-design laboratory at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Agriculture. “We have also discussed the possibility of building domes on Mars out of wood in order to grow timber forests.”Martian and lunar colonists, like all pioneers, would have to make use of local materials — regolith (rocky material on the surface), silicon dioxide and other minerals, in the case of Mars. But wood could play a part in crafting temporary or permanent shelters. Murata points to plans by JAXA and industrial partners to develop shelters made partly of wood that could be used in Antarctica or on the Moon.“The natural radiation-shielding properties of wood could be used effectively to design walls or outer shells of space habitats to provide protection,” says Nisa Salim, who specializes in engineered materials at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and is not part of the project. “Wood is an effective insulator, capable of regulating temperature and minimizing heat transfer to maintain a comfortable indoor environment. Wood is easy to work with, renewable and biodegradable, aligning with sustainability goals for space exploration.”Salim noted that the structural integrity, safety and longevity of wood need to be confirmed in space.Wood consists of cellulose held together by lignin, a kind of organic polymer. That makes it a naturally occurring member of the class of materials known as composites, says Scott J McCormack, a materials engineer at the University of California, Davis, who is not involved in the project. Composites are often used in the aerospace industry, so he does not find it surprising that their use in satellites might be explored.“Composites are ideal for the aerospace industry — and also satellites — due to their high strength-to-weight ratio,” says McCormack. But he has doubts about how wood will fare as a structural material on the Moon or Mars. “The first concern that comes to mind is galactic cosmic radiation [GCR] and how it might degrade the mechanical properties of wood over time. GCR isn’t that big of problem for us here on Earth, thanks to our atmosphere.”But Murata says that the team has studied measurements of GCR and solar energetic particles — high-energy particles that are released from the Sun — taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars, as well as the effects of gamma rays on wood on Earth. He thinks that wood on Mars could potentially last for thousands of years. “Radiation on Mars is a big problem for living organisms, including humans,” he says. “I don't think this is going to be much of an issue for wood.”This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on June 7, 2024.

Will a diet that's good for the planet also help you live longer? Here's the evidence

The more people followed environmentally sustainable diets that emphasized nutrients from plants, the lower their risk of death from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and a variety of other causes, a new study finds.

A new study finds that the more people followed environmentally sustainable diets that emphasized nutrients from plants, the lower their risk of death from cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and a variety of other causes. (J.M. Hirsch / Associated Press) Every time you scoop up a spoonful of overnight oats or sink your teeth into a cheeseburger, you’re eating for two — for the sake of your own health and the health of the planet.Researchers estimate that about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 40% of land use and 70% of freshwater use is tied to the production of food. The strain will only grow as Earth’s population climbs toward the 10 billion mark by 2050.Will it be possible to provide all those people with a nutritious diet in a way that’s environmentally sustainable? That question prompted an international group of scientists to create a “planetary health diet” that’s heavy on plants — including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes and unsaturated oils from sources like olives and canola — along with with modest amounts of dairy, poultry, fish and other foods derived from animals. It also allows for a little bit of red meat, refined grains and sugar. (You can even have a burger about once a week.) If the whole world were to embrace a diet like this — along with adopting better agricultural practices and reducing food waste — greenhouse gas emissions would be cut roughly in half, the scientists calculated when they introduced their eating plan in 2019. They also projected that the number of premature deaths around the world would fall by up to 24%. “That amounts to about 11 million deaths per year” that wouldn’t happen, said Dr. Walter Willett, a co-chair of the group known as the EAT-Lancet Commission.Now Willett and his colleagues at Harvard University have checked their work against real-world data. The Harvard team created a Planetary Health Diet Index, which quantifies the degree to which a person’s diet adheres to the goals put forth by the commission. There are 15 food groups, and people were scored on a 5-point or 10-point scale for each one. The maximum possible score was 140, which would signify perfect alignment with the ideal eating plan.The researchers assigned PDHI scores to more than 200,000 people enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of the participants gave detailed information about their diets when they joined the studies in the 1970s and 80s, and they updated that information at least once every four years for more than two decades. The women in the two Nurses’ Health Studies improved their diets over time: The average index score for participants in NHS1 increased from 75.7 in 1986 to 84.5 in 2010, while the average for women in NHS2 jumped from 70.4 in 1990 to 85.9 in 2015. However, the average score for men in HPFS held steady at around 78.By the time the tracking periods came to an end in 2019, 54,536 people in the three studies had died.The researchers hypothesized that the higher a person’s PDHI score, the lower their risk of being among the deceased. And after accounting for demographic factors such as age, race and neighborhood income as well as health issues like a family history of cardiovascular disease or cancer, that’s exactly what they found.“We did see a very strong, very clear inverse relationship,” said Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Right down the line, everything we looked at was lower for people who adhered most closely to the planetary health diet.”Compared to the 20% of people with the lowest index scores, the 20% with the highest scores were 23% less likely to die for any reason during the study period. They were also 14% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, 10% less likely to die of cancer, 47% less likely to die of a respiratory ailment, 28% less likely to die of a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, and 22% less likely to die of an infectious disease.Among all the men and women, eating more whole grains, fruit, poultry, nuts, soy and unsaturated fats were each associated with a lower risk of death. On the other hand, eating more starchy vegetables like potatoes, red or processed meats, eggs, saturated fats, added sugar or sugar from fruit juices were each associated with a higher risk of death.Willett and his collaborators also consulted a database that tallied the environmental impacts of various foods to see whether healthier diets were better for the planet. Compared to the diets of people with the lowest PDHI scores, the diets of those with the highest scores required 21% less fertilizer, 51% less cropland and 13% less water and produced 29% fewer greenhouse gas emissions.Willett said he was “surprised by the strength of some of these findings,” adding that the relationship goes both ways. For instance, when fewer acres are farmed, there’s less particulate matter in the air, and when fewer animals are raised in close quarters, the risk of antibiotic resistance declines.“There are lots of very important indirect effects on health that are mediated by a better environment,” he said.The results were published Monday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.This isn’t the first study to link planetary health diets to a reduced risk of premature death — researchers have seen the connection in the United Kingdom and in Sweden. But the new work is the first to apply a more precise diet index to a large sample of Americans and use it to assess their risk of death. That is an “important” advance, said Zach Conrad, a professor at William & Mary who specializes in nutritional epidemiology and food systems.However, he said more work is needed to show that planetary health diets are as good for the Earth as they are for Earthlings.“It has yet to be demonstrated that healthy diets are also more environmentally sustainable,” said Conrad, who was not involved in the new study. “It is important that we move away from inferring a link between diet quality and sustainability, and instead move toward measuring it.”

Eating Cicadas and Other Bugs Could Be Sustainable and Delicious

Make the best of the “double brood” of cicadas with insect kimchi and tempura-fried bugs.

Joseph Yoon: Maybe it’s a delicacy. Maybe it’s something that we enjoy doing. Maybe we just want to have a butter-fried, chocolate-covered cicada because it’s delicious.Rachel Feltman: If your lawn is currently flooded with cicadas, you might be looking for a way to get rid of the noisy little invaders. But have you thought about just—eating them?Some cultures consider insects a delicacy, and billions of humans eat them on a regular basis. Others relegate bug consumption to schoolyard dares and those weird little novelty lollipops, remember those? But increasingly, skeptical folks are coming around to the idea that insects might just taste good.On supporting science journalismIf you're enjoying this article, consider supporting our award-winning journalism by subscribing. By purchasing a subscription you are helping to ensure the future of impactful stories about the discoveries and ideas shaping our world today.[CLIP: A character speaks in The Lion King: “Slimy, yet satisfying.”]Feltman: And I’ve brought in my favorite insect-eating ambassador and chef Joseph Yoon to tell us all about nymph kimchi, deep-fried cicadas and other delicious dishes you can prepare with ingredients plucked fresh from your backyard. For Scientific American’s Science Quickly, I’m Rachel Feltman.Yoon: My name is Joseph Yoon. I’m the chef and founder of Brooklyn Bugs and also an edible insect ambassador.And we have had a lifelong love of insects, but we’ve never really considered eating or cooking them in a serious manner until 2017, when an artist approached us to work on an art project to help conquer her fear of insects by eating them. And I said yes immediately because I love to think about ways to integrate art into my life and into my work.When I began researching edible insects I came upon the [United Nations’] FAO, the Food and [Agriculture] Organization, report in 2013 Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security. And this report was and continues to be my guiding North Star. And it really profoundly had an impact on me to think that we can take something so visceral and so, so weird for a lot of our American counterparts and then to think that it can address food security and sustainability, health and nutrition, workforce activations, and livelihoods and environmentalism—this became a tremendous source of motivation and inspiration for me.Feltman: I’ve heard you say before that as a chef, your top reason for eating insects will always be taste. So let’s start there instead of with all the environmental and health arguments for eating bugs. What are your favorites, and what do they taste like?Yoon: Yeah, what I love is that when we begin to talk about flavor profiles with edible insects, I like to first have people imagine—describe for me the flavor of chicken without using the word chicken. We begin to realize the difficulty and challenges of describing flavors of things that we’re even very familiar with.So with that being said, there are over 2,000 known species of edible insects—all with such wildly different flavor profiles, textures and functionality—and the manner in which we prepare them, what they’re fed and reared on, and the substrate, the terroir, they will all have an impact on the ultimate flavor of the insects. So we’re going to generalize a little bit and describe some flavor profiles for you. But I did want to just kind of preface it with some general notes.Feltman: It’s true. I could not tell you what chicken tastes like. That question’s going to haunt me.Yoon: So if we were to—just to start with some of the basic insects, I mean, a lot of the flavor profiles are characterized as, like, nutty or earthy or mushroomy. And those are descriptive and accurate to a certain degree, but there are, like—how many hundreds of different nuts are there that taste so different?But as a general characterization of flavor, crickets do have a nutty, earthy flavor to them. Depending on how they’re prepared, we can manipulate that flavor. Just like if we were to cook something with garlic and aromatics like onions and ginger, it’ll impact the ultimate flavor of the dish.One of the really interesting flavor profiles that I particularly enjoy are with various species of ants that have formic acid as a defense mechanism. So it gives it this really beautiful acidic sort of flavor, which is really surprising.Cicadas have a really beautiful nutty, but also vegetal quality that’s very distinct and unique. There are so many flavors to explore and one of the more interesting ones may be with the male water bug. They create this pheromone that’s designed for mating, and it has this incredible je ne sais quoi that’s aromatic and has, like, a certain fruity and amazing quality. And in Vietnam they actually extract this pheromone and just put, like, one drop in their ramen to flavor the entire broth.Feltman: You mentioned cicadas, and that was my excuse for getting you to come on, as—of course, many listeners are aware and perhaps even perturbed by—there is a cicada emergence currently. And yeah, I have heard from some of my friends who eat more insects than I do that cicadas are really delicious. I think you mentioned you were out looking for some right now.Yoon: Yeah, I am in Springfield, Illinois, where we’re anticipating the co-emergence of Brood XIII and XIX.In 2021, when Brood X emerged, I think that the metaphor of their emergence from social isolation—17 years underground—and our own emergence from social isolation in May of 2021 made them a part of the zeitgeist of a particularly unusual year.And we were able to really discuss and talk about the importance of why we should consider eating insects, how sustainable they are and how they can go towards addressing the U.N. 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well.And we begin seeing that over time, yes, there are a lot of people all around when these cicada emergences occur where people are eating insects well, particularly eating the cicadas.You’ll see them popping up in ice cream shops, at pizza stores, as a special in restaurants. People are like, “Oh, we can eat these. What a novelty.”Feltman: And so for folks listening who may see a bunch of cicadas around, is there a way for folks to safely, you know, harvest and prepare cicadas that they forage themselves?Yoon: Yeah, I like to think of this as really considering the best food-handling practices. And so we want to be safe: Make sure you’re not in an area where there are cars passing, first of all. Don’t just stop in the middle of the road. Don’t go in—on private property or somewhere where you shouldn’t be. And also be mindful of the environment—are there risks of pesticides or pathogens or heavy metals that are in the area?Two, you want to make sure that the insects are healthy. And so you want to just be able to collect them when they’re alive and you know that they’re fresh and healthy. There are different stages of a cicada that you can collect, from the nymph to the adult. If you are able to collect the nymphs, I think they’re really incredibly special. I like to rinse them off and freeze them to euthanize them. For me, my all-time favorite way to prepare them is actually in a kimchi. And kimchi typically has other arthropods, like oysters or shellfish or baby shrimp or perhaps fish sauce. And so I love the inclusion of cicada nymphs to create that umami. There are other ways just to simply fry it up in aromatics, like garlic and onions and ginger. For me, I like to add a little soy sauce, a little bit of mirin and maybe a little sesame and finish it off with some scallions and eat it along with your rice or stir-fry or any variety of things. With the adults, they’re almost like just picking berries off of a tree or a shrub. I tend to avoid things that are low on the ground because maybe there’s animals that might be urinating there, so a little bit higher just to make ourselves feel a little better about it. And then I like to, again, freeze them to euthanize them. And then I rinse them off.A lot of people are like, “Oh, you must remove the wings.” And I personally never do if I eat it myself. And I’m not sure where people think that they’re the authority on eating cicadas. If you would like to remove the wings, you’re certainly welcome to do so. In my all-time favorite preparation, I actually think the wings make it a lot better, both visually and taste-wise, which is a tempura frying of the cicadas.I like to do a really thin cicada batter because then you could really see the cicada. And if you’re really careful, and you want to take the time, you could almost spread out the wing as well so that it’s visible in the tempura fry. I think there’s something really special to be able to pick it up from the wing and dip it into your favorite sauce. I know there’s a lot of popularity with using Old Bay—so if you want to sprinkle it with Old Bay and salt, or if you want to make an Old Bay sort of aioli as a dipping sauce. And if you want to go another step, I guess you could technically melt some butter, add some Old Bay or hot sauce—whichever you like—and then toss your tempura cicadas in it, kind of like you would buffalo-style fried chicken wings or something. I encourage people to be creative and have fun. Think about your favorite dish and how you might be able to incorporate cicadas into them.Feltman: I’m from the Delaware Valley, so I also love Old Bay. So truly, I have no excuse. I need to go eat some cicadas ASAP.Tell me a little bit more about what some of the benefits of increasing our insect consumption are. You mentioned a few briefly, but I’d love to hear more.Yoon: So when we talk about the sustainability of edible insects, one of the things that we’re referring to is that it requires far less inputs for more outputs. So what that means is that it requires less feed, less water, less land space to create an equivalent amount of protein than it does for other livestock.And they also produce far less greenhouse gas emissions compared to other livestock as well. So what I like to think of is minimum input for maximum output. So would we rather spend 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pound of protein or simply one gallon? And so on the sustainability side, it makes a lot of sense.What we have with insect agriculture is a potential for a circular and regenerative agriculture. And so we could take food waste from farms, from grocery stores, from restaurants to bakeries and breweries and feed them to insects and eliminate them from going into our landfills, which would dramatically decrease greenhouse gas emissions. And we’ve also utilize it as animal feed and as pet food and also aquaculture. And so we’re able to feed this to the animals.Which leads us to also consider, “Oh, wow, we can decrease the deforestation in the Amazon that’s being utilized for animal feed by also incorporating this method and utilizing these insects for animal feed and for pet food. And to close this loop of insect agriculture: a by-product of rearing metric tons of insects will be the frass, or the excrement, and it’s also mixed with the exuviae, which are the exoskeletons. And this is an incredibly efficient bioorganic fertilizer, and it mitigates chemicals from going in our waste streams from traditional fertilizers. We’re seeing that the plants are incredibly healthy when utilizing the frass. But the real tremendous potential is that it also goes a long way in replenishing our soil health. I really love to emphasize and encourage people to think about the potential and innovations of insect agriculture—not to put it in a silo, but “How can we work alongside other [agricultural] systems, really, for the benefit of both us and the planet?Feltman: For folks who are intrigued, excited about the sustainability implications, but the taboo is just too much for them, and cicadas don’t feel like food, what are your sort of gateway insects that you suggest to people? Which ones tend to really surprise skeptics?Yoon: I think that the crickets turned into powder is incredibly versatile: You could add to your smoothies. You could add to soups. You could add it into your baking. You could add it into your marinara sauce and make lasagna with it,but have it be fortified with that extra nutrition and flavor. And so the versatility of crickets, its availability and to be able to use it in the cricket powder—to me, I regularly do indeed call the cricket the “gateway bug.”So we’ll see what possibilities occur with that. But black ants as well—they might look like caviar or black sesame seeds, and it’s a punch of flavor when you just eat it by itself. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s so tart.” And then when you add it into avocado or guacamole, the flavor is really beautifully homogenized. And I like to think it’s kind of like a lemon. If you were to bite into a lemon or squeeze a lemon, you’re like, “Oh, so sour—how do you eat this?” And you’re like, “Oh, you have to learn how to eat it and add it in to really accompany and be a part of the flavor profile and develop these flavors.”And I think it’s a similar thing with edible insects. We’re at a point and a stage where a lot of people think of insects as, like, eating a whole insect. And I think our understanding functionally is kind of like we’re biting into a raw lemon. But we have to begin learning the gastronomical properties and really develop more of the tools, assets and even language in how we’re going to address it to be able to be successful in getting people to adopt it. And so going back to your original question, I think that we have a big void in the knowledge. And without that knowledge, people are like, “Okay, I know what eating is, I know what insects are, so of course, I know what eating insects are.”But their real understanding of it is devoid of a lot of the knowledge. And so beyond the why, I think we also have to consider that there’s a great moment for us to learn. If we were to know that there are billions of people around the world that already consume insects on a regular basis—not out of desperation, but maybe it’s a delicacy. Maybe it’s something that we enjoy doing. Maybe we just want to have a butter-fried, chocolate-covered cicada because it’s delicious. And so for me, one of the really big things is that when people ask me, “What’s, like, the one way or one insect you think that will get people to change their mind?” I like to really think about the personal nature of eating and that this is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that it really requires this complex interdisciplinary nature for us to really think about how we’re going to successfully transform a global perception around insects as being a pest or something that bites you or eats the plants in your garden to being something that’s sustainably farmed or harvested specifically for human consumption and that’s processed in America at [Food and Drug Administration]–approved facilities and that we can have this sort of knowledge that can build the confidence. And then to be able to create the hundreds of dishes that I’ve done and to be able to share this with people where, “Hey, that’s a very recognizable food. I love drinking fruit smoothies with the addition of another 30 grams of protein,” or, “I love the idea of eating a cricket lasagna, where I don’t even have to see the cricket if I don’t want to,” or, “I love this tempura-fried cicadas with a buffalo dipping sauce. That sounds absolutely delicious.”And so I think that everyone has to come to this on their own. But I never want people to feel like I’m pressuring them or that they have to do it because of sustainability but that they can really come to this on their own terms and go, like, “Oh, I keep seeing all these dishes with crickets and cicadas, and I’m very curious because people are saying they taste delicious.”That’s kind of the approach that I have, is that I’d love for people to just have the decisions and the knowledge so that this isn’t propaganda because we’re not trying to go out there and make this be political or have this be part of some political agenda but really to think about “Hey, there are great benefits to this, but ultimately it’s also incredibly delicious and fun.”Feltman: That’s all for today’s episode. Join us again on Friday for a look at the surprising new science of plant intelligence.Science Quickly is produced by me, Rachel Feltman, along with Kelso Harper, Carin Leong, Madison Goldberg and Jeff DelViscio.Elah Feder, Alexa Lim, Madison Goldberg and Anaissa Ruiz Tejada edit our show, with fact-checking from Shayna Posses and Aaron Shattuck. Our theme music was composed by Dominic Smith.Subscribe to Scientific American for more up-to-date and in-depth science news.For Science Quickly, I’m Rachel Feltman. Thanks for listening!

Vegan leather isn’t as sustainable as you think

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If you’re shopping for leather shoes, belts and clothes, you might be finding more and more products labeled as “vegan.”Some brands are marketing these items as a more sustainable choice over traditional animal-based leather, but it’s not as clear-cut as you might think. It may not be made from animals, but “vegan leather” is often a rebranding of “pleather,” or plastic leather, a synthetic, fossil-fuel-based textile.We looked at how pleather stacks up against animal leather. Here’s what you need to know:Most faux leather is made out of either polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride — also known as PVC — both of which are types of plastic.If you’re buying pleather, you should steer clear of PVC, said Huantian Cao, professor and chair of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware, who has researched sustainable textiles and design.“The entire life cycle of this material has a very bad environmental impact,” Cao said. Production, use and disposal of PVC can release toxic chlorine-based chemicals, and the plastic is one of the world’s largest sources of dioxin, a harmful pollutant that persists in the environment and can accumulate in the food chain.Pleather manufacturers are working to eliminate the use of PVC, Cao said. Polyurethane is a better alternative, he said, but it’s still plastic and made from petrochemicals, a nonrenewable resource. Producing this type of pleather also involves chemicals, he added.Recycling pleather is complicated and not widely done, Cao said.Throwing out your pleather once you don’t want to wear it anymore can be a problem. “It is synthetic,” said Sonali Diddi, an associate professor in the department of design and merchandising at Colorado State University who researches sustainable clothing production and consumption. “It’s never going to biodegrade.”Where does leather come from?Traditional leather comes from the hides of livestock, namely cattle, that are primarily raised for meat and dairy. Hides that aren’t turned into leather typically end up burned or in landfills.“As long as we human beings eat meat, there will be skin, and we need to find some application for that,” Cao said. “Many people may think or feel bad that we kill animals just to have leather and make shoes, and that is essentially not the real case.”One estimate from the Leather and Hide Council of America, a trade organization, suggests that about 40 percent of hides worldwide are landfilled, said Kevin Latner, the group’s vice president. As these hides decompose, they could release about 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, he said. This amount is similar to the emissions of more than 9 million gasoline-powered cars being driven for a year.“To collect the animal skin from the meat industry and convert them to leather goods is a way to maximize the using of the resource,” Cao said.Leather products can be shredded into scraps, but recycled leather can have limited applications, he added.And, he noted, traditional leather tanning often uses heavy metals, most notably chromium, and the resulting waste is a health hazard and could pollute waterways if facilities don’t have proper safeguards in place. Groups such as the Leather Working Group and Oeko-Tex offer sustainability certifications for leather.When it comes to shopping, many experts say the most sustainable choice is the product you’re going to keep and use for as long as possible.Animal-based leather is “time tested,” Diddi said.“We still see leather products in pretty good condition even if they’re 100, 150 years old,” she said. “If you’re thinking about sustainability, durability, hand-me-downs, I would say genuine leather would be the way to go.”Depending on how it’s made and used, pleather can be less durable than genuine leather, she said. The synthetic material can peel, chip or crack with frequent use.Alternatives to faux and real leatherCompanies are experimenting with plant-based alternatives to leather, including materials made from mushroom or cactus, as well as fruits such as pineapple.These textiles could be more sustainable than pleather because they’re plant-based and they don’t require tanning like animal leather, Diddi said.But research into these materials is ongoing and products are not widely available yet, meaning it’s too soon to know what the actual impacts of plant-based leathers are.“They are still at the very, very early stage,” Cao said.

Avocado Farms Aren’t Sustainable Now, but They Could Be

Avocados are marketed as a superfood, but growing them for an expanding world market has turned a rural Mexican state into an unsustainable monoculture

The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation, an online publication covering the latest research.Consumers’ love for avocados in the United States seems to know no bounds. From 2001 through 2020, consumption of this fruit laden with healthy fats tripled nationwide, rising to over 8 pounds per person yearly.On average, 90% of those avocados are grown in the southwest Mexican state of Michoacán. As with other foods that have become trendy, such as acai berries, or widely used, such as palm oil, intensive avocado production is causing significant environmental damage.On supporting science journalismIf you're enjoying this article, consider supporting our award-winning journalism by subscribing. By purchasing a subscription you are helping to ensure the future of impactful stories about the discoveries and ideas shaping our world today.My research on 20th-century Latin American environmental history examines how the transnational movement of people, foods and agricultural technologies has changed rural landscapes in Latin America. Currently, I’m writing a book on the development of a global avocado industry centered in Michoacán, the world’s largest avocado-growing region.My research shows that raising avocados is economically beneficial in the short term for farmers, which in Latin America typically means medium-sized operators and agribusinesses. It also helps growers – people in rural areas who grow subsistence crops. Over time, though, every serving of avocado toast takes a toll on Michoacán’s land, forests and water supply. Rural growers, who lack the resources of large-scale farmers, feel those impacts most keenly.The environmental effects of monocultureMichoacán is the only place on earth that grows avocados year-round, thanks to its temperate climate, abundant rainfall and deep, porous volcanic soils that are rich in potassium, a vital plant nutrient. Even under favorable conditions, however, monocultures are never environmentally sustainable.Introducing homogeneous, high-yielding plant varieties leads growers to abandon native crops. This makes the local ecosystem more vulnerable to threats such as pest infestations and reduces food options. It also erodes fertile soils and increases use of agrochemicals.Monoculture also can drive deforestation. Mexican officials estimate that avocado production spurred the clearance of 2,900 to 24,700 acres of forests per year from 2010 through 2020. And it’s resource intensive: Avocado trees consume four to five times more water than Michoacán’s native pines, jeopardizing water resources for human consumption.Bred in CaliforniaAvocados have been a part of the Mexican diet since ancient Mesoamerica, but the Hass– the most popular variety worldwide today – was bred in modern California.In the late 19th century, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture embarked on a mission to collect and send home samples of food plants from around the world. The goal was to adapt and grow these plants in the United States, reducing the need for food imports.Collecting plant genetic material from Latin America and imposing quarantines on avocados from Mexico starting in 1914 provided vital support for the development of a U.S. avocado industry. Farmers in California and Florida bred multiple strains from the material that USDA explorers collected. But U.S. consumers in the early 1900s weren’t familiar with this new food and hesitated to buy avocados of various textures, sizes and colors.In response, farmers began selecting plants that grew avocados with small seeds, abundant flesh, hard skin, a creamy texture – and, most importantly, high yields. According to industry lore, Rudolph Hass, a postman and amateur horticulturalist in Southern California, stumbled on a new variety in the late 1920s while trying to propagate a variety called Rideout.Within several decades, the Hass became the dominant avocado grown in California. By the 1950s, Mexican farmers who had connections with U.S. brokers had introduced the Hass south of the border.How the Hass changed MichoacánIn the early 1960s, Michoacano cantaloupe farmers acquired lands to expand their production by growing avocados. Soon they focused on exclusively producing the Hass.Many local Indigenous Purhépecha people, along with non-Indigenous campesinos, or country farmers, rented or sold land to the emerging avocado farmer class. In the 1980s, campesinos began to grow the fruit too. This was an expensive, long-term undertaking: It took four years for the trees to produce marketable avocados, but growers had to buy the trees, clear land for them and provide water, fertilizer and pesticides to help them grow.Cantaloupe farmers could afford to invest capital for four years with no cash return. Campesinos had to rely on loans or remittances from family members abroad to develop avocado orchards.As production expanded, agrochemical distributors, tree nurseries and packing houses sprouted on Purhépecha lands, clearing native pine trees and eroding the fertile soils. Mexico passed a law in 2003 that prohibited clearing forests for commercial agriculture, but by this time campesinos in Michoacán were already growing Hass avocados on a large scale.The guacamole wars: NAFTA and avocadosAfter the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, California avocado farmers lobbied to maintain a quarantine that the USDA had imposed on Mexican avocado trees in 1914 because of an alleged plague. After three years of drought in California and testing of Michoacán orchards for pests, Mexico began shipping Hass avocados to the U.S. in 1997.However, the only region the USDA certified to send avocados to the United States was Michoacán. Mexico had to allow the USDA to station agents in Michoacán to verify that certified orchards fulfilled agreed conditions to minimize the risks of plant diseases.Companies such as Calavo, a California-based produce distributor, began to buy, pack and ship avocados grown in Michoacán to U.S. customers. In the process, they became major competitors for California avocado farmers.Beyond monocultureToday, avocados are one of the most-regulated exports from Mexico. However, these rules do little to address the industry’s environmental impacts.Farmers in Michoacán continue to clear woodlands, spray agrochemicals, exhaust aquifers and buy Purhépecha communal property, converting it to smaller, privately owned lots. Rising profits have spurred violence and corruption as some local authorities collude with organized crime groups to expand the market.Visiting Michoacán on Feb. 26, 2024, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar pledged that the U.S. would modify its protocol to block imports of avocados grown in illegal orchards. However, this won’t restore local ecosystems.As I see it, expecting small-scale growers to protect the environment, after the ecology and economy of Michoacán has been radically altered in the name of free markets and development, puts responsibility in the wrong place. And boycotting Mexican avocados likely would simply lead growers to look for other markets.Diversifying agriculture in the region and reforesting Michoacán could help to restore the Sierra Purhepecha’s ecology and protect the rural economy. One Indigenous community there is successfully growing peaches and lemons for the domestic market and avocados for the international market, while also planting native pines on their communal lands. This is a potential model for other farmers, although it would be hard to replicate without state support.In my view, importing avocados from different areas of Mexico and the world to reduce the Hass market share may be the most effective environmental protection strategy. In 2022, the USDA approved imports of avocados grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco. This is a start, but Jalisco will follow Michoacán’s trajectory unless the U.S. finds more sources and promotes more avocado types.As U.S. eaters’ tastes become more adventurous, sampling avocados of different sizes, shapes, textures, tastes and origins could become a decision that’s both epicurean and environmentally conscious.This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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