NASA tech developments and a city powered by oranges, here’s what’s making us smile in the world of sustainability this week…
Thousands of people around the world are lending a hand to help save the world's biggest fish. By taking photos of whale sharks, the general public are providing researchers with critical information about the sharks' population hotspots and migration routes.
Adapted from technology first developed for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope program, the algorithm works for whale sharks due to their skin markings appearing similar to the stars in the night sky, allowing scientists to track the sharks’ locations and movements. Today, the database holds over 70,000 submissions from more than 50 countries – making it one of the biggest crowd-sourced conservation projects in the world.
Electricity giant Drax has scrapped controversial plans to build Europe’s largest gas power plant at its North Yorkshire site, following sustained opposition from environmental groups. The plans would have made Drax – which already uses biomass and produces 6 per cent of the UK's electricity – the biggest gas-fired power plant in Europe. Further to the cancelled plans, Drax announced its aim to be carbon negative by 2030 and therefore have decided to end commercial coal generation to commit to this promise and make a positive change as an energy giant.
A bird known only from a specimen collected between 1843 and 1848 has been rediscovered on the Indonesian island of Borneo. After 180 years since its last confirmed sighting, the black-browed babbler was presumed extinct, but the fresh sighting confirms it is alive and singing. Two local men, Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan, stumbled upon the lone songbird while out in the jungle. They caught and released it after taking photographs, which they sent to birdwatching groups. Once Covid restrictions ease, conservationists have plans to secure the sighting area to protect the babbler and other species.
With agriculture responsible for around 10 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint, the need to slash emissions associated with producing food and drink is great. This week, the latest research from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents more than 300 companies across the national sector, announced that its members had collectively slashed emissions by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels, five years before their target date of 2025. Furthermore, FDF members have contributed to the UK’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, saving more than 180,000 tonnes of food from going to waste. Despite the difficult year the industry faced, it’s clear that environmental initiatives have remained front of mind for food companies, with clear progress continually being made to underline this.
Located in Southern Spain, Seville is a European city home to palaces, the largest number of orange trees, and now, a brilliant civic recycling initiative that will see millions of tonnes of fruit being turned into electricity. To tackle an overload of unwanted oranges, Seville has begun a pilot scheme that uses the methane produced in fruit fermentation to generate clean electricity. It is estimated that around 1,000 kilograms of orange peels are needed to produce the equivalent electricity consumption of five homes in one day. If successful, the plant is expected to process around 1,700 tonnes of oranges each day which is enough to power 73,000 households!