Thanks to the pandemic we’ve all gotten a taste of cleaner air, and we all want that to continue. Clean air isn’t just good for better views of the horizon and a more pleasant place it to live, it’s also good for global health and for government coffers. Yes, governments can save money if we pollute less (despite Chevron’s best efforts).
Importantly, many of the benefits can be accessed in the near term. Right now, air pollution leads to almost 250,000 premature deaths a year in the US. Within a decade, aggressive decarbonization could reduce that toll by 40 percent; over 20 years, it could save around 1.4 million American lives that would otherwise be lost to air quality.
Of the potential yearly deaths prevented, Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois remarked at the hearing, “That’s a huge number. That’s nearly three times the number of lives we lose in car accidents every year. It’s twice the number of deaths caused by opioids in the past few years. And it’s even more than the number of Americans we lose to diabetes each year.”
If the numbers are shocking, it’s because the science has been developing rapidly. First, says Shindell, “there’s been a huge upsurge in work in developing countries, in particular China,” which has produced larger data sets and a wider, fuller picture of the real-world effects of exposure.
Plants in your home and workplace can reduce stress and make the air you breath cleaner. If I had my way then every wall would be a bio wall. Since that’s not possible I’m happy to advocate for some plants that are easy to care for. Even if you don’t have a green thumb then these plants are for you.
You’ve probably seen the super popular snake plant on Instagram or at your local coffee shops and restaurants. Their vertical, spear-like leaves make them stand out in a sea of green. Not to be confused withthe spider plant, snake plants can come in a number of varietals: tall or short, with different leaf and color patterns. This was the second plant I bought to sit on my floor, and boy, do I love the heck out of it. They add a very exciting, bold visual element to any living space—alone or among other plants.
Probably one of my favorite features is that they don’t attract many pests or at all, and according to NASA, theykeep the air inside the home clean. But like the ZZ plant, don’t eat it.
A few years ago we looked at a TED talk on how to grow fresh air inside. The information was based largely on NASA’s research done in the 1980s called Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement, which looked into which plants are best for cleaning interior working spaces. They first looked at what is in the air in an average office then set out to find plants that remove chemicals that harm humans.
Daan Roosegaarde designed another piece for his Smog Free Project and it’s a bicycle that cleans the air as you ride through the city. The handlebars contain a filtration system that removes pollutants which will provide clean air for the cyclist to breath in. As a cyclist myself this sounds amazing because breathing in exhaust from commuters is painful. The filtration technology is a version of what Roosegaarde used in his Smog Free Tower.
“The bike is a perfect model,” Roosegaarde told Dezeen. “It has a double function as it cleans the air and reduces congestion while being healthy and energy-friendly.”
The Dutch designer, who heads up his own firm Studio Roosegaarde, sees the bike being implemented through bike sharing programs in China such as Mobike.
“The bicycle is part of the Dutch DNA of course, and Beijing and other cities in China used to be bike cities,” he said. “We want to bring back its prestige and follow our ethos of making citizens apart of the solution instead of the problem.”
“It will always be connected with big programs of government and green technology and electric cars. They do top-down, we do bottom-up, and we meet in the middle.”
In Frank Herbert’s book Dune the inhabitants of a desert planet collect water using giant “windtraps,” now we can do the same on earth. Researchers at MIT have built a prototype, which can be easily scaled up, that can capture a lot of water from even the driest of places. Basically, air is filled with moisture and when it flows through the wind collector it comes in contact with a slightly charged surface that sucks the water right from the air. The amount of power needed is negligible, which means that the device can run using only solar panels.
The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.
“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”
And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.
There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.
In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.