Harvard Built a Zero Emissions Home

Buildings use a lot of energy for heating and cooling throughout the year, homes are no exception. Harvard decided to build a zero emission “home” to test solutions that can be used in new buildings or retrofitted into existing structures. The design is smart in the sense it uses passive heat exchange and lighting while also using high tech sensors to monitor the home and adjust internal systems.

Rather than existing as a “sealed box,” HouseZero is designed to interact with the seasons and environment, sometimes rapidly adjusting itself to achieve comfort for its occupants without using powered HVAC systems.

For example, the home uses a “window actuation system” that relies upon software and room sensors to automatically open and shut windows as the outside temperature changes, intelligently moving air around the home to make it cooler or warmer (through cross ventilation and convection). This process is also driven by a “solar vent” in the basement.

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Climate Change Deniers Just Need Motivation

Water

The COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland has opened with a direct call for immediate action on climate change. You’d think that 99% of scientists, years of evidence, weather records being broke every month, and even oil companies admitting climate is real would motivate people to care. However, it’s the very fact that there is so much evidence of the damage of climate change that people don’t care about acting on it. This ironic twist is thanks to the perceived mental workload one has to handle in order to feel motivated to buy fewer things.

“A big part isn’t the experience; it’s the motivation,” said Paul Thagard, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Philosophy, who specializes in cognitive science.

“Psychologists talk a lot about ‘motivated inference’ … when people have strong motivations, they’re very selective in the sort of evidence they look for.”

Even though there is consensus that climate change is occurring and that humans are exacerbating it, there are still people — including politicians — who refuse to acknowledge the evidence.

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Transit-First Pilot Project in Toronto a Success

streetcar

Toronto is a city where the car reigns supreme and any suggestion of sharing the road is deemed to be a war on the car. It’s surprising then that last year the city converted one of its busy downtown street from being car-focussed to transit focussed. Like everywhere else that has done this, people love it! More people are being moved around the city at a faster rate. The early data released by the city showed that the project was successful. Now, there’s more research from the project that points out that not only did transit riders benefit, local businesses did too.

It found that 53 per cent of transit users reported visiting shops along King St. W. more often since the pilot was put in place, and that a majority of them visited the shops more than once a week.

Due to increased streetcar reliability, transit users say the area is less stressful and they spend less time commuting and more time in the area to shop, according to the survey.

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30 Minutes of FOMO a Day

safe texting

We’ve heard that spending too much time on social media is detrimental to our mental health, and every year more evidence confirms that. Simply put, too much time Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. makes us feel bad. But how much time is too much time? It seems that 30 minutes is more than enough time. For a healthy life limit yourself to less than 30 minutes a day to social media.

Introduction: Given the breadth of correlational research linking social media use to worse well-being, we undertook an experimental study to investigate the potential causal role that social media plays in this relationship. Method: After a week of baseline monitoring, 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania were randomly assigned to either limit Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat use to 10 minutes, per platform, per day, or to use social media as usual for three weeks. Results: The limited use group showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.

Discussion: Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.

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How Individuals and Governments can Save Bees

bee

Butterflies and bees need our help. They’re currently dying off due to changes in their environments while also being sprayed with deadly pesticides. A bunch of countries have banned the bee-killing pesticides, but that’s not helpful in the short term for beers or farmers. The progress at the policy level is needed and is slowly being rolled out around the globe.

At the individual level there is already stuff we can do to help the bees and our farming friends. All you have to do is plant some native species that your local pollinators love. Oh, and that means lots of butterflies.

The essence of the technique is to devote one in every four cultivation strips to flowering crops, such as oil seeds and spices. In addition, she provides pollinators with cheap nesting support, such as old wood and beaten soil that ground nesting bees can burrow into. Sunflowers were also planted nearby as wind shelters.

“There is a very low barrier so anyone in even the poorest country can do this. There is no equipment, no technology and only a small investment in seeds. It is very easy. You can demonstrate how to do it with pictures sent on a cellphone.”

Compared with control fields of pure monocultures, “amazing” benefits for farmers and an increase in abundance and diversity of pollinators were found. Crops were pollinated more efficiently, there were fewer pests such as aphids and greenfly, and yields increased in quantity and quality.

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