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Modern Brickies are ‘Taking the Pee’

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‘Liquid gold’: students make world’s first brick out of human urine.

The bio-brick created by students in Cape Town mixes urine with sand and bacteria, which they say is a world first. Article from The Guardian newspaper.

Urine bricks created by students at the University of Cape Town.

Creating a truly sustainable construction material is now a possibility

Vukheta Mukhari

“Students in South Africa have created the world’s first brick made from human urine.

The bio-brick was produced by students from Cape Town, who collected urine from specially designed male urinals at the university’s engineering building and mixed it with sand and bacteria.”

More from the article … “Bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation, said Randall, similar to the way seashells are formed. Loose sand, which has been colonised with bacteria that produces urease, is mixed with the urine. Urease breaks down the urea in the urine, producing calcium carbonate, which cements the sand into shape.

While regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures of 1,400C and produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, the bio-bricks do not require heat.”

Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development

How to Fix Corroded Battery Terminals

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InstructablesInstructables

Original Article
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Fix-Corroded-Battery-Terminals/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

HOW TO FIX CORRODED BATTERY TERMINALS
By lonesoulsurfer in TechnologyElectronics14,62911033

Introduction: How to Fix Corroded Battery Terminals

About: I’ve always liked pulling things apart – it’s the putting back together again that I have some issues with. More About lonesoulsurfer »
Many a time I’ve managed to get my hands on some electronic gizmo only to find that the battery compartment totally corroded. It’s usually one of the main reasons I think that people throw toys and whatever else takes batteries away.

The corrosion is caused by potassium hydroxide which can leak out of alkaline batteries (these are the usual types of batteries you put inside toys etc). All batteries discharge, either through use or just slowly through the production of hydrogen gas which forms pressure in the battery. Eventually that pressure will find a way out through a seal or as the battery ages, through corrosion or rust in the outer shell.

 

Once a leak forms then the best thing to do is to get rid of the battery and neutralise the acid. However, if you don’t get to it in time, then the corrosion will grow and spread out of the battery which causes oxidisation and corrosion of the terminals making your device caput.

This Instructable will go through a couple of ways that you can fix your device to bring it back to life again. The first is the most extreme corrosion where the terminals have to be replaced, the second is a small amount of oxidisation which only needed the acid to be neutralised and the terminals to be cleaned.

You can take precautions though to stop this happening such as not mixing different battery types in the same device, replacing all of the batteries at the same time, storing in a dry place and at room temperature, and removing batteries for storage of devices. I’m inherently optimistic (and also lazy) so I’ve never taken any of these precautions but it’s definitely good practice, especially with expensive electronic goods.

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Step 1: Parts and Tools

Your parts are going to be any electronic goods that need terminal cleaning and/or relacing. The following though will come in handy when you are going this type of work

Tools

1. Battery Holders. I have a bunch of these lying around which are good for projects. You can also use the terminals from them to repair other electronic goods.

2. Small files

3. Baking soda

4. Small paint brush

5. Needle nose pliers

6. Ear cleaners

7. Wire cutters

8. Soldering iron

9. Rubber gloves – to protect your skin from the potassium hydroxide. I have touched it before and it does mildly irritate the skin so it’s best to use gloves when handling.

10. Eye protection – self explanatory

Don’t use your fingers to try and remove the batteries. Although the acid isn’t very strong, it will still irritate your skin (I know as I’ve touched it before!).

Steps:

1. Place a set of rubber gloves on and some safety glasses

2. Use a small screwdriver to pull the batteries out. The glasses here are very important as it is easy to flick small pieces of the corrosion whist pulling out the batteries.

3. Sometimes that batteries can be so corroded that they virtually weld themselves to the terminals. In this case you will need to use a large screwdriver and maybe some pliers to remove them. You’ll probably rip out the terminals as well so be careful you don’t pull any wires out at the same time

4. Dispose of the batteries in a plastic bag.

Next thing to do is to remove all of the corroded terminals. It can be tricky sometimes to do this if they are severely corroded as bits can break off and the grooves in the battery holder can get clogged-up.

Steps:

1. Use a small, thin screwdriver and push this between the top of the terminal and the battery holder. This should bend out the terminal

2. With a pair of needle nosed pliers, grab hold of the terminal and pull it out.

3. If the terminal has solder points, make sure you de-solder or cut the wires and cut them away to be able to remove them easily

4. Dispose of the corroded terminals once removed

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Step 4: Cleaning the Battery Cover
Picture of Cleaning the Battery Cover
Picture of Cleaning the Battery Cover
Picture of Cleaning the Battery Cover 2 More Images
The battery holder that I fixed came away from the torch so make it easy to wash and clean. However, this might not always be the case as it will depend on what type of electronics you are cleaning.

Steps:

1. You can neutralise any leftover acid with some vinegar or baking soda and water paste. I use the baking soda trick in the other example I do in the Instructable.

2. Next if possible, wash out the bottom of the battery holder and clean any of the old acid away from the case. If you can’t remove the battery holder, then you are going to have to be a lot more careful when cleaning the area. Use a damp cloth instead of running water and remove any leftover acid

3. Next, you may need to remove any pieces of terminal or corrosion that is in-between the grooves that the terminals sit in. Use something thin and sharp to remove anything lodged inside the grooves.

4. Lastly, give the area a clean with some Isopropyl Cleaning Alcohol to remove any last traces of the acid.

In some cases, the corrosion is so bad that you need to replace the terminals inside the battery compartment. One of the easiest places to get these is from old battery holders. You could also grab the terminals out of any old electronic parts

Steps:

1 If your battery terminals have tabs on the back, make sure you lift these up first. You might also need to de-solder any wires on them if you got the terminals out of a toy etc.

2 Next, use a small screwdriver to push them out of the battery holder. Just place the tip of the screwdriver into the bottom of the terminal and lift it out of the battery holder. They are held in place by a couple of grooves in the side of the battery holder so should come out relatively easily.

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Step 6: Modifying the Battery Terminals

Chances are you will need to modify the battery terminals so they will fit into the batter holder You can do this pretty easily with some wire cutters and a dremel if you have one.

Steps:

1 First, try and fit one of the terminals into the battery holder grooves. If it does fit, then you can probably ignore this step and move onto the next. If not, then you will need to modify it.

2 Trim the sides of the terminal with some wire cutters and try to push into the grooves again in the battery holder

3 I also had to add a small slit into the terminal in order for them to fit which I did with a dremel.

4 Once you have modified, it’s then time to add them to the battery holder

Steps:

1. The first thing to do is to determine the orientation of the terminals. You need to make sure that the spring section on the terminal will be touching the negative part of the battery and the flat section is touching the positive.

2. Usually you can just look on the bottom of the battery holder and there will be images or the orientation. If not, then work out where the positive wire is going to be connected to the terminal and use this as a guide on the orientation of the terminals.

3. Place the terminals into the battery holder grooves and push into place. If they are a little loose then usually the batteries will hold them into place. However, you can slightly bend the terminal and push it back into the grooves which will make the fit a little tighter.

4. Once you have all of the terminals in place, solder the positive and negative wires to the solder points on the terminals.

Steps:

1. Before you screw everything back into place, add some batteries and make sure everything works as it should.

2. If everything works ok – replace the screws and covers and whatever else needs replacing to finish off your part

3. Lastly, give it another test and make sure it works

4. Now if you don’t want to have to do this all over again, go back to the intro and follow the precautions

This is really the most extreme case of having to fix battery terminals. The next sample, I think is more common and is more oxidisation of the terminals due to some leakage of the batteries. It’s easier too to fix!

I found this cool, vintage mike at the tip and wanted to try and get it going again. Initially I tested it not knowing that it needed an AA battery and thought it was probably something to do with the wiring. After un-screwing the case however I discovered that it needed a AA battery to run. The battery had been in place for some time and the terminals were oxidised and had some minor corrosion damage. I could have replaced the terminals but decided it would be easier just cleaning them

Steps:

1. Remove the old battery with a screwdriver and dispose of. Even though there was not as much damage and leakage as the first sample, I still made sure that I wore gloves and eye protection

2. You can see in the images that there is a little corrosion and acid on the end of the terminal but that the terminal itself looks relatively unaffected structurally.

3. The brown streaks you can see running through the middle of the battery holder is actually glue that has discoloured over time, not corrosion

4. The next step is to neutralise the acid

Next thing to do is to neutralise any residual acid left of the terminals. There are a couple ways you can do this; one is with vinegar (I didn’t have any on hand so didn’t go with this option) two, with baking soda which is what I used.

Steps:

1. First thing to do is to make a paste with the baking soda and a little water. You want to make it not too runny as the water could affect the electronics in whatever you are fixing. However, at adverse is true as well, too thick and it won’t spread well. You need to find the goldilocks mixture somewhere in the middle

2. Once you are happy with the mixture, add a little to each terminal with a small paint brush or something similar

3. Wipe off any excess from the terminals before it dries.

4. Now that the acid has been neutralised, it’s time to clean-up the terminals

You need to remove any oxidisation and corrosion from the terminals. I find that the best thing to use is a small file but you could use sandpaper as well

Steps:

1. Use a small, fine file on the terminal until the oxidisation and any corrosion is removed. You may not be able to get it all off but sure you get as much as possible.

2. Once you have removed the oxidisation, give the terminals a clean with some isopropyl alcohol

3. You can sometimes remove the terminals from the grooves without having to undo any screws or removing any wires. It sometimes makes it easier to file if you can do this – just be careful that you don’t break any wires etc.

Steps:

1. Once the terminals are clean and back into place, you can add a battery/s and test.

2. As before, it’s best to test before you screw everything back into place

That’s it! Hopefully you have managed to bring something back to life again with only a little bit of work.

Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments

Did you make this project? Share it with us!

ReplyUpvote
Good article, and I’m glad to see that I’ not the only one who tries to save electronic toys, instruments, etc. However, baking soda only works on the old acid-zinc or carbon batteries, not on alkaline, NiCAD or NiMH ones.

Direct from Duracell.com:

To clean any leakage of the following battery types, Alkaline, NiCAD and NiMH batteries, use either one tablespoon of boric acid in one gallon of water or a mixture of equal amounts of diluted vinegar or lemon juice with water (50/50 ratio).
BTW, the term is oxidation, not oxidisation. A strong base (also called caustic, or alkali) can be just as destructive or harmful to skin or eyes as a strong acid. Some metals are affected as much or more by caustics than acids (such as aluminum or zinc – which includes brass, which is a copper/zinc alloy frequently used in battery terminals). From personal experience, handling cement (strong caustic) or concrete – either wet or dry – for any length of time with bare hands will be painful lesson to anyone careless enough to do it.

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None
russ_hensel
13 minutes ago on Step 10

ReplyUpvote
You may clean with vinegar, but do not nuturalize acid with it; it is acidic.

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mbkafil52
24 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
My problem is that the battery compartment of my Apple key board is jammed due to battery corrosion inside. Any bright ideas how to unlock it?

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DavidE341
25 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
Very good instructions! Done this many times myself. I would only add that I also use a water displacement/penetrating oil (e.g., WD40, Kroil) during the sanding phase as it helps cut through the surface rust.

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CarletonS
31 minutes ago on Introduction

ReplyUpvote
Great info. I’ve had many instances where the batteries have leaked after prolonged non-use. I’ve always wondered if just removing the oxidized terminals would do the trick, only to find that any little bit of acid left will cause the batteries to leak again. Thanks so much for educating this non-scientific person. 🙂

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FrankB170
33 minutes ago on Step 7

ReplyUpvote
I never thought of the idea of snagging the springs and terminals out of those Radio Shack battery holders. Great idea.

(Please change your references to acid. KOH is actually a base and using baking soda seems counterproductive. Still, great article and thanks.)

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ThirdEarthDesign
34 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
Great tips and information, thanks for the I’ble!

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KenL39
8 hours ago on Step 10

ReplyUpvote
Vinegar is acid so it won’t neutralise acid from the battery- the baking soda is alkaline so it will work

2 replies
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EwenF2
Question 36 minutes ago on Introduction

AnswerUpvote
If the corrosion is caused by potassium hydroxide, which is an alkali and comes from alkaline batteries, why do you call it acid and talk about neutralising it with vinegar, which is also an acid? Since it is alkaline, you cannot neutralise it with baking soda, which only reacts with acids.

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mf70
44 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
Another tool that helps in cleanup is a fiberglass scratch brush, such as:

https://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Brush-Fiberglass-Colors-vary/dp/B0019V18D2/ref=pd_day0_hl_469_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0019V18D2&pd_rd_r=ad3ea381-b5c8-11e8-b96a-75051c3f57a5&pd_rd_w=71JDs&pd_rd_wg=mDmYd&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=ad07871c-e646-4161-82c7-5ed0d4c85b07&pf_rd_r=JTXWHAS3T8JSJ8Q8SRMY&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=JTXWHAS3T8JSJ8Q8SRMY

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SpikeH3
48 minutes ago on Introduction

ReplyUpvote
I thought vinegar was an acid (acetic acid?) – so how can it neutralize acid?
But an excellent and useful article. Never occured to me to cannibalize cheap battery holders.

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Deltic
49 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
I’ve found that lemon juice, an old toothbrush & the disposable variety of nail file do the job nicely.

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SallyC47
Tip 49 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
For really fine wire, I burn the plastic and while its still warm just pull it off.

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wdkdave
50 minutes ago

ReplyUpvote
if you don’t have vinegar or don’t like the smell of vinegar – lemon juice will also do the trick, and again the corroded residue is a base not an acid so needs a mild acid to remove it.

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gm280
21 hours ago

ReplyUpvote
Spot on with everything you stated. I’ve been down this road a few times my self. And if you don’t have other battery holders to donate parts from, you can always use a tin can (not aluminum types) and cut out your own terminals. They solder that same and are not that hard to form into replacement terminals. Always better then throwing away the electronic item. Thumbs Up!

N.B.

ReplyUpvote
I agree for bakin soda (a base from the chemical point of view) able to neutralize acid residual. But using vinegar (containing acetic acid) imho is a non sense, even if could it be acts as a deagreasing agent.

Some great ‘frugal ideas’ from Treehugger.

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Here it is again: Saving oneself a load of cash is somehow less daunting than striving for environmental virtuousness, but the end result is the same.

A whole lot of recipes that do not include meat.

17 recipes for an unforgettable vegan barbecue

Frugality is environmentalism

Eco-Friendly Household Cleaning tips.

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Hamburg’s Green-Living House.

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I wrote Green-Living because this IS in many ways a ‘living house – run by green-power.

Hamburg Now Has an Algae-Powered Building

by Mark Hay September 23, 2014.
Photo by NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons

Last spring, Arup, the design and engineering firm that brought the world the Centre Pompidou and the Sydney Opera House, unveiled their latest hypermodern architectural creation in Hamburg. From the outside, the surface of the 15-unit apartment building just looks like a bubbling green lava lamp stretched over an entire building. But those moving bubbles serve a function: they help to feed and order the living algae embedded within the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building’s exterior skin. In turn, the 8-foot by 2-foot glass panels of green scuzz—the building’s $6.58 million bioreactor façade—power the entire structure, making it the world’s first algae-powered and theoretically fully self-sufficient building ever.

Conceived in 2009 as part of Hamburg’s International Building Exhibition, Arup’s BIQ building is part of a European movement to design carbon neutral, self-sustaining, and renewably powered structures. (Germany, for example, is pushing to achieve 35 percent national energy reliance on renewables by 2020.) Alongside a series of houses demonstrating solid timber carbon-locking constructions and greywater recycling systems, the BIQ was funded in large part by the German government as a means to incentivize the development of new adaptive,smart construction materials. Of all the technologies on display, though, algae power has perhaps the finest pedigree and greatest potential.

Research on the energy potential of algae, once just considered a slimy pond nuisance, began in earnest during the gas crisis of the 1970s at America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Producing about five times as much biomass per square foot as soil grown plants, and thriving on carbon dioxide, algae have the potential to grow almost limitlessly and produce oily lipids and gases that can be transformed into relatively clean energy. But official research largely ended in the 1990s as scientists concluded that the benefits of feeding, fostering, and harvesting algae were not yet competitive with then-low oil prices. Still, many independent research groups kept the dream of algae power alive over the next couple of decades, slowly improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of proposed systems. From 2009 onwards, at least a few plans for algae bioreactors have floated around the design community and academic circles, although few very have become reality.

Photo courtesy of IBA Hamburg

The BIQ is the first residential structure to fully realize the dreams of algae power advocates. The building is coated on its two sun-facing sides with glass-plated tanks of suspended algae. Pressurized air is pumped into the system, feeding the organisms carbon dioxide and nutrients while moving them about—creating the lava lamp effect—to keep them from settling on the glass and rotting. Scrubbers clean off any sticking biomass, freeing up more sunlight for the remaining algae to perform photosynthesis. Periodically, algae are culled, mashed into biofuel, and burned in a local generator to produce power. Excess can be sold off for food supplements, methane generation to external power providers, or stored for future use. The result is a building shaded from summer heat by algae foliage, insulated from street noise, and potentially self-generating the power to sustain its own harvesters, heat, and electricity.

Critics of the design and of algae power in general argue that transforming algae into biofuel requires energy, as does manufacturing and pumping in nutrients. They also take issue with the fact that the BIQ is not totally self-sufficient and that algae technology is more expensive than solar power. They claim that these points make the technology more of a novelty than a useful solution—or at least that its potential has been over hyped.

Even Arup will concede to most of these points, admitting that the BIQ has only achieved 50 percent energy independence thus far. However they believe that total independence is within reach, especially by integrating solar into the design. The costs—$2,500 per square meter for the bioreactor system alone—are astronomical, but the developers hope that as the technology evolves, prices will decrease, while the savings of fuel reduction will offset the remaining extra costs. They hope that soon high-energy consuming businesses like data centers will help pilot their tech in the search for grid independence, and that algae power can take off in residential homes within a decade.

The Arup team is made up of futurists. The same year that they unveiled the BIQ, they released the “It’s Alive” report, envisioning a 2050 with mega-skyscraper vertical farms, jet-powered maintenance robots, and photovoltaic paint, a classic wish list of quasi sci-fi tech. So it’s probably reasonable to question how realistic their optimism about algae power is. But they’re no longer the lone nuts on the road to mass algae power. Grow Energy of San Diego, founded in 2012, has produced two home algae bioreactors and hopes to be able to manufacture, deliver, and install its first systems—generating 35 percent of the average home’s energy with minimal maintenance—for $12,000 per system starting next year.

Meanwhile, in late 2013, scientists developed a very simple technique—basically a specialized pressure cooker—to turn algae into cheap, competitive, biodegradable, non-toxic, and relatively clean oil in just an hour, and believe they can mainstream the technology within 25 years. And just this year, the state of Alabama launched the world’s first algae-powered wastewater treatment plant in the town of Daphne, cleaning water, generating fuel, and serving as proof of concept that the technology is improving, gaining widespread support, and proving itself on larger and larger scales.

Although all of this means we’re likely to see a greater number of more efficient buildings like the BIQ in the next few years, we’re still many years off from an algae generator in every home. But given last month’s pledge by the International Union of Architects to end carbon emissions from buildings by 2050, and similar global initiatives in search of carbon-neutral, self-sufficient structures, the emerging tech is likely to find more champions.

It’s hard not to look at the BIQ, in spite of all its flaws, and see a system that fits the order of the day in every way: a carbon locking, self-sustaining, off the grid, neutral power system. If the only hitch is that, in early stages of development, it’s still a bit pricey and buggy, that’s hardly a death knell for an otherwise optimistic and inspiring tech.

Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

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Leave a lighter footprint: green funeral and burial tips

Worldwide, more than 50,000,000 people pass away each year. Traditional burial and cremation practices can have significant negative environmental impact, but green funerals and eco-burials are one way to lessen the impact. While death can be a difficult subject, keeping ethical beliefs and environmental convictions in mind while tending to end-of-life arrangements can create a meaningful send-off–not to mention a lower-impact one. After all, if you gotta go, why not go green?

Top Green Funeral Tips

  1. Seek Good Advice
    Not long ago, the idea of green burial was unheard of by most funeral directors, and today, for a variety of practical and emotional reasons, many people still resist the idea. However, there are signs that the industry is awakening to the concept, especially since many people with environmental sympathies wish to leave the world as they have tried to live in it. A growing number of products and services can help them do just that. Key points to think about include: 

     

    • Funeral Director: Ask your funeral director about more sustainable options, or seek out a funeral home that offer green practices (more on this below).
    • Green Burial: Likewise, green burial specialists can help you explore greening your final resting options.
    • Literature on Green Funerals: Read one of the books that can guide you through the process. (See our “Where to Get this Stuff” section below for suggestions.)
  2. State Your Intentions If you are reading this guide with an eye to what happens to your remains when you are gone, it would make sense to talk to your loved ones about it or make arrangements ahead of time. Death can be a difficult process and, unless prompted, those left behind may not think to consider the environment in making arrangements. Even if they do, they may not have a grasp of the best and greenest courses of action to take. 

     

    • Define Your Wishes: Add a clause in your will or create an advanced funeral wishes document that stipulates your green funeral concerns. Consider including a copy of this guide with your instructions.
  3. Cremate Your Remains On the face of it, cremation doesn’t seem like a particularly green idea. Burning anything creates pollution, especially if there are toxic substances present (via embalming, for example), and returning nutrients to the ecosystem via decomposing matter is a core tenet of environmental thinking. That said, modern crematoriums have made significant reductions in emissions. Plus, as many cemeteries, particularly in the U.S., have rules and regulations stipulating the use of concrete vaults, coffins, and other such requirements that use significant resources and space, becoming one with nature isn’t as straightforward and simple (or quick) as it may seem. Cremation, therefore, may make more sense from a green perspective, after all. If it seems like the right choice to you, you can ask the crematorium about what they are doing to reduce emissions. A previous TreeHugger post also discusses more about efficient and green cremation. Another option that has been explored in Sweden involves freezing the body with liquid nitrogen, which breaks the remains down more rapidly. This method has been very controversial.
  4. Bury Your Remains Ultimately, our remains are part of the food chain. Unfortunately, many of the trappings of modern burial–such as embalming, hardwood coffins, and concrete vaults–are designed to delay the natural process of decomposition. Though these ideas have become modern standards, the truth is that anything we can do to return to the earth more easily will lessen our impact on the environment. See our previous article, The Green Goodbye, which explores new trends in eco-burials. Key ecological points include: 

     

    • Preservation: Embalming slows the decomposition process. For those whose tradition does not designate embalming as part of the burial practice, consider skipping this step, and opt for a closed casket and rapid burial.
    • Coffins: Cardboard, bamboo, or jute coffins, shrouds, or biodegradable urns are all dignified ways to unite with nature more rapidly.
    • Green Burial Grounds: The Green Burial Council and other organizations are taking strides to develop and identify sustainable burial and cremation practices, locations and companies.
  5. Leave a Living Marker It can be important for mourners to have somewhere to go to remember their loved ones long after the funeral is over. Natural or living memorials can be wonderful alternatives to quarried headstones or marble mausoleums. Consider planting a tree or a bush that will carry on in honor of the deceased. Online memorials are also becoming increasingly popular. For inspiration, New York’s New School and the The U.S. Forest Service have explored visions of the living memorial through their project, Land-markings: 12 Journeys through 9/11 Living Memorials.
  6. Give Gifts of Sympathy Cut flowers have a short shelf-life; besides, flower-farming can be a resource-intensive endeavor. It’s already common practice to ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers; after all, what better way to remember the dead than to create a better world for the living? From organizations that provide solar power to the developing world to others that provide bicycles for AIDS caregivers, charity-giving is a magnificent way to honor the passions of deceased friends or relatives.
  7. Deliver a Just Tribute So much of what we hold dear about a person includes their ideals and convictions. It is fitting, then, to commemorate the life of a departed fellow TreeHugger with a memorial ceremony that touches on the subject of the environment. We are not suggesting a 10-hour lecture on Gaia Theory, but a joyful remembrance of a passionate green life well-lived. With more and more faiths and denominations fromCatholicism to Judaism and beyond embracing stewardship of the environment, it shouldn’t be hard to find a minister with sympathies for your cause. Green funeral providers and any funeral director will also be able to offer advice on how to create a unique, personalized ceremony.
  8. Green Your Funeral Service As with any event, much of the environmental impact is in the details. Even if you don’t opt for any of the ideas above, you can still make a funeral greener by incorporating the following practices into the gathering. 

     

    • Programs: Use recycled paper for programs or hymn sheets.
    • Flowers: Source any flowers from organic, local growers.
    • Procession: Make arrangements for carpooling from location to location during the funeral.
    • Refreshments: If the deceased was an environmentalist, the chances are they enjoyed local, organic food. If refreshments are being served, it makes sense then to look closely at where they come from. TreeHugger’s How to Green Your Meals provides helpful tips and guidelines for selecting the refreshments of your choice.
  9. The Ultimate Recycling We’ve already suggested that using biodegradable coffins or urns, and avoiding concrete vaults, can help reduce our impact by returning our remains to the earth. However, some folks are taking this even further by finding safe ways to literally compost human remains.
  10. Return to the Woods The woodland burial movement, which started in the UK, is widely credited with the birth of interest in natural funerals in general. Not only do woodland burials involve low impact ceremonies, they also aid in the return of a piece of land to a natural forest. Trees and native wildflowers are often planted above a grave, and because the location becomes dear to the families of the deceased, chances are good that the site will remain protected for years to come.

 

Cremation ceremonies in Varanasi, India || Dennis Jarvis/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Funerals: By the Numbers

    • 56.5 million: The approximate number of people that die each year around the globe.
    • 50 million: Trees that are cut down in India each year for funeral pyres. This releases 8 million tons of carbon dioxide.
    • 270: The number of green and woodland burial sites in the U.K.
    • Up to 16 percent: Mercury emissions in the U.K. that come from crematoria because of the fillings in teeth. This percentage is expected to increase to 25 percent by 2020.
    • 1.6 million: Tons of reinforced concrete buried in the U.S. each year in the construction of vaults.

Sources: Yahoo!TreeHuggerDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsGreen Burial Council

Green Funerals: Getting Techie

Embalming became popular in the United States during the Civil War and is still a significant source of groundwater pollution today. Arsenic gave way to the less toxic formaldehyde as the favored embalming solution around the turn of the last century. However, formaldehyde poisoning can still be fatal and it is classified as a human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Some estimates say that one million gallons of formaldehyde are buried in embalmed bodies each year in the United States. Almost all of this will eventually make its way into our water supplies. Efforts are underway to gradually replace formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde, which is considered less toxic.

 

Cremation causes nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, heavy metals and particulates to be released into the atmosphere when a body is cremated. If a body has mercury-amalgam fillings, the mercury will almost certainly become air pollution unless the fillings are removed first. Burning a body inside a coffin also creates significantly more pollution than burning the body by itself. Modern crematoriums often have ‘clean smokestacks’ that ameliorate the associated emissions, at least to some degree, and the cremation industry has claimed that reports of pollution have been greatly exaggerated.

Books
Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love
Exit Strategy: Thinking Outside the Box
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial
The Natural Death Handbook

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Deep-Frozen Woman ‘Denied’ Eco-Burial

 A.K. Streeter (@april2462) Living / Health March 2, 2012

Promessa AB/Screen capture
“Think About Death” the inscription at the Gothenburg cemetary reads.

Remember the story a few years back about an environmentally-friendly form of burial that sifted the toxic and valuable metals from corpses and put resulting nutrient-rich dust into biodegradable caskets to replenish the earth as compost?

OK, maybe you haven’t heard. But this type of eco-burial was the passion of researcher and business owner Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who formed a company, Promessa Organic AB, to help dead people that wish to quickly return to the earth. According to Wiigh-Mäsak, her method is much more sustainable than our current embalming in caskets, or cremation. Traditional casket-buried bodies are deeply buried, rot slowly and release methane as they do so, Wiigh-Mäsak has said. With Promessa’s process, powdered bodies will be shallowly buried and break down much more quickly.

Except that in Sweden, the freeze-drying and shallow burial of corpses has no precedent, so this new form of eco-burial has yet to go forward.

Thus the body of Jane Günther, who had herself frozen upon her death in 2009, is still waiting (thus far in vain) for the Swedish state to comply with her last wishes. Recently, the Swedish Tax Authority threatened to force conventional burial of Günther’s body against those wishes, as it seems there’s a legal limit for how long corpses can remain unburied.

Gunther is one of 12 Swedes to undergo the deep-freeze in anticipation of a Promessa-style eco-burial, while Wiigh-Mäsak waits for approval of her technique.

The main problem is that Swedish law only allows for two forms of burial – cremation, or burial in a casket. At Promessa, a body is first chilled down to -18C. Once she’s obtained permission for her process, Wiigh-Masäk’s clients will be dunked in liquid nitrogen (obtained as a byproduct of the medical industry) which freezes them to -196C. Wiigh-Mäsak says this makes a body very brittle, and subsequent agitation causes the body to break apart and eventually disintegrate. Heavy metals are then filtered out by means of magnets, and the remains put into a biodegradable corn casket and buried in a shallow grave. Wiigh-Mäsak says in 6 – 12 months the body will be rich compost.

“Whether we burn our body or bury it six feet under, we neglect the possibility of bringing our organic remains back to nature, thereby becoming part of a balanced process.” – Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak

Researcher Bengt Johansson isn’t convinced that the method will work. Wiigh-Mäsak has said she’s tested the method on hundreds of pigs, but she hasn’t publicly shared her research findings.

Johanssom, a professor of anatomy at Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy who has worked with freezing technology, told a Swedish newspaper he doesn’t believe bodies will react in the way Wiigh-Mäsak says they will, and wants further scientific, peer-reviewed proof.

So it’s a fight to the death, or beyond.

Wiigh-Mäsak is planning to build a Promessa facility this year to handle more burials with her method, which she calls promession.

 

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

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From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

Original article: treehugger.com//how-to-go-green-babies

From Doula to diapers: bringing up a green baby

tiny baby foot photo

A new baby entering your life can create an enormous number of unexpected changes. Along with the little one comes a whole new category of things to purchase — not only the obvious large items like furniture and diapers, but also all the unforeseen extras that seem to accumulate. While having a baby is consumer heaven, the key is to not be gulled into an unnecessary buying frenzy. In truth, a baby has very minimal needs. On the flip side, there is more to a sustainable life with your baby than cloth diapers, organic baby food, and fair-trade clothing…read on for more.

Top Green Baby Tips

    1. Choose the right diapers
      Studies are divided on the subject of environmental impact of disposables vs. cloth. But knowing that your baby will use approx 6,000 diapers before toilet training, and that disposable diapers take 200-500 years to decompose, this is certainly a key issue to ponder. Washing cloth diapers takes water and energy (not to mention time), but it’s a great way to avoid chemicals. Use natural laundry detergent then set it out in the sun to bleach out any stains. You could also consider the benefits of a laundering service. One study has found that home-washing cloth diapers has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and if you use a diaper laundering service that impact is halved again. Another plus is that the same cloth diapers can be passed down to future babies.

       

      Cloth diapers: Reusable diapers aren’t what they used to be and the days of diaper pins are all but bygone. Go for fitted cloth diapers with Velcro or snap closures for convenience, made from an eco-friendly material such as hemp, bamboo, or organic cotton. Use an organic wool cover that is both warm and breathable, minimizing diaper rash and cold bottoms at night. Use either removable or flushable liners and when washing either use a laundering service or wash at home at lower temperatures. With a new baby around you’ll probably notice a lot more laundry piling up, so make sure you’ve optimized your setup with an efficient machine and non-toxic detergent. If you can line-dry, that is ideal, but don’t bother ironing.

      Biodegradable diapers: Made with plant-based plastics (also known as bioplastics), these diapers are non-petroleum based and are compostable. While these have been found not to break down under landfill conditions, there are other options to compost them such as using a composting toilet, an earthworm system, or a highly active and properly conditioned composting area. Hybrid diapers, like gDiapers, have removable inserts that can safely biodegrade when flushed. But be careful, some so-called ‘green’ diapers, like Seventh Generation, can contain petroleum gels,so make sure to do your research first!

    1. Feed your little one: From breast or bottle?
      This one’s a no-brainer: breastfeeding is best. It’s free, has health benefits for mother and baby, has no environmental impact, and is a precious bonding experience. However, in our commerce-driven society there are products for everything, and breastfeeding is no exception. For breast pads, ditch disposables and try re-usable organic cotton or wool felt pads. While there are many great, organic nipple creams available, some locally produced olive oil or organic lanolin does a great job. If bottle feeding becomes a necessity, pumping your own is the first choice. Beyond that, using a fair-trade organic infant formula is preferable. If this is neither affordable nor accessible, then the next best thing is to ensure the brand of formula you buy is from a company not profiteering from marketing their product to developing countries. These companies disregard or try to get around the marketing code set by The World Health Assembly.

    1. Chow down on solid foods
      At about six months, babies starts to eat real food. Rice cereal and mushy veggies turn to combinations of fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and vegetables–yep, a regular person’s diet. Buying jars of food is sure convenient, but as an adult you don’t live out of jars, so why should your baby? For those occasional situations,purchase organic or fresh frozen baby foods. Otherwise, make your own. Cook up veggies, casseroles, or tofu and lentils, whatever is your thing, and freeze it in tiny containers or ice cube trays ready to take out and defrost when needed. (Be sure you discuss any concerns over dietary requirements with your health professional)

    1. Dress your baby in smart green clothing
      All those designer baby clothes are cute and oh so hard to resist in their fruity colors. But be careful. Not only does a baby grow out of clothes amazingly fast, they are constantly sending bodily fluids flying onto those precious outfits. The baby couture might be better replaced with convenient one-piece suits in practical white terry cloth. Choosing organic hemp or cotton, bamboo or wool fabrics made without toxic chemicals are best against a baby’s sensitive skin and last longer with the constant washing. Second-hand clothing is the cheapest and most sustainable option. Get hand-me-downs from friends and family or look in thrift shops, Craigslist, or Freecycle.

    1. Lather up with natural skin care
      It’s very easy to get sucked into the constant advertising of baby powders, creams, and lotions, but avoid soap on a baby’s delicate skin – less is more for their skin care. The best baby lotion is plain old olive oil or coconut oil–cheap, natural, and un-perfumed. As for other products, keep it as natural, organic, and fragrance-free as possible. Weleda diaper creams and lotions are great. For more on this, take a look at our guides for How to Go Green: Women’s Personal Care and Everything you need to know about natural skin care.

    1. Wash up: Green laundry and washing
      It’s quite possible that our war on germs is actually making things worse. Studies have shown that children brought up in over-cleaned houses are more likely to develop allergies, asthma, or eczema. The best thing you can do for sensitive baby skin is not to cover it with synthetic chemicals. Wash nappies with pure soap and warm water. Make your own non-toxic cleansers with simple ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. For more, see How to green your cleaning routine.

    1. Make play-time green-time with greener toys
      Get back to basics and try old fashioned wooden toys and organic cotton or homemade teddies. Because babies put most things in their mouths, go as natural as possible, then when baby is a little older, get hold of second-hand toys. Also aim for toys that help build a child’s bond with nature and the natural world. The sad truth is that the average American kindergartener can identify several hundred logos and only a few leaves from plants and trees.

    1. Rest easy with green furniture and accessories
      Babies don’t need much–a secure place to sleep, a car seat, a high chair, and a way to be trundled around. Go for second-hand furniture, everything except cot mattresses (some research suggests a link between second-hand cot mattresses and sudden infant death syndrome) and car seats, (which can have invisible accident damage). If you buy new furniture, purchase high quality, durable pieces made of sustainable, low-toxicity materials. Think about some alternatives to the regular old wooden baby bed; try using an organic cotton baby hammock or a cot that extends into a bed and lasts 6-7 years. The most ethical option for stroller (pram) is recycled. For more on furniture, see our guide for How to choose green furniture.

    1. Improve your indoor air quality and maintain a healthy household environment
      It goes without saying that alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking while pregnant are bad for a baby. But it is also very important to avoid exposure to the synthetic chemicals contained in everyday products such as paints, carpet, furniture, bedding, and pesticides which make up Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)in the air you and your baby breath. When decorating the nursery, use natural and low-VOC paints and don’t lay new carpet before the baby is born. Suspicious new items should at least be left outside to off-gas for a few days before bringing inside.

  1. Wipe out chemical cleaners and disposable liners
    Diaper wipes and liners commonly include propylene glycol (a binder also found in antifreeze), parabens (a family of compounds commonly used as preservatives) and perfume, which can be made from up to 600 different chemicals. Try using good natural organic cotton wool and water and avoid disposable changing mats and perfumed diaper bags.

 

Babies use A LOT of diapers every day by Sean Dreilinger/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: By The Numbers

    • 6000: The number of diapers the average baby uses before potty training.

    • 200 to 500: Years it takes petroleum-based disposable diapers to decompose.

    • 49 million: The estimated number of disposable diapers used per day in the United States; Australia uses 2.2 million, Japan uses 6.7 million, and the U.K. uses 9 million.

    • 53 percent: A home-washed cloth diaper has only 53 percent of the ecological footprint of disposables, and a diaper laundry service has a mere 37 percent of that footprint.

  • $1.4 billion per year: The estimated amount of money Americans spend on complicated births due to smoking while pregnant.

 

Josh Dubya/CC BY 2.0

 

Green Babies: Getting Techie

Toxic chemicals can have great impact in babies’ lives since they do so much growing and developing early in life, so it can be more important to keep them out of our youngsters’ systems. Here are some of the worst:

 

Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor — meaning it mimics hormones in our bodies, upsetting the delicate natural balance and changing the way babies develop — used often in polycarbonate plastic water bottles. When it’s done in baby’s body, it enters the water system, where it effects the hormonal development of fish and other aquatic life. TheFDA acknowledges it’s risky for youngsters.

Lead, which was used in paint for many years, and still pops up in some kids toys even today (yikes!), is a banned neurotoxin that can disrupt your child’s brain development. Learn more about getting the lead out of your home.

Attachment parenting, involving sleeping with and wearing your baby, while not for everyone, is said to promote a strong bond leading to a sensitive, emotionally aware child. It is based on the theory developed by Dr. William Sears that babies are born with a need for nurturing. Attachment parenting has been a controversial parenting method in the media and the extent to which it can be considered ‘green’ is debatable. Many parents who are opposed to attachment parenting feel that letting the baby sleep alone or not responding every time it cries teach a baby independence. Find out what feels most natural and go with it. Trust your parenting instincts.

Elimination communication is a technique of timing, signals, cues, and intuition to help baby/infant express his or her poo-related needs; using it may help you not use diapers at all. This is best begun before six months of age, and while it is most commonly used in third-world countries where parents are in constant contact with their children, it has been used in the West with some success.

With reporting by Manon Verchot