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Innovative ideas to help the planet

The effort to save our planet requires help from everyone – from positive changes in the way we live day-to-day and individual efforts, to action from governments and large organisations. And it also requires innovative ideas to help change the way we live, and to help heal some of the damage humans have already done.

A huge seaweed farm in the ocean

Could growing seaweed help our planet?

Seaweed and Shells

Carbon capture is where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed or ‘captured’ by growing planets such as trees or moss. Scientists think that by cultivating certain organisms we could capture more of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that’s contributing to climate change.

One company called Seafields aim to cultivate a giant seaweed farm, floating in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Natural ocean currents will keep it spinning in place. As the seaweed grows, it will capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then when it dies it will sink to the ocean floor, trapping most of the carbon.

Read more about this story on the BBC

Replanting forests… using drones

More trees (and more plants, and more biodiversity) is great for the planet. Not only do they help capture atmospheric carbon dioxide but they also provide habitat, help keep soil rich, are an important part of the water cycle and can help control flooding, are beautiful… the list goes on and on.

But planting trees is often time consuming and labour intensive, and many of the places where lots of trees could be planted (or replanted) are remote and hard to reach.

Enter a company called BioCarbon Engineering, which has proposed using drone technology to see areas and plant trees remotely, without having to send lots of people in to do it by hand. The drones don’t just scatter seeds; they ‘fire’ them at the ground to ensure they’re buried in the soil, with the best chance of germinating, and initial tests have indicated that the success rate is similar to hand planting.

Read more about this story on National Geographic

See-through solar panels (and windows)

We need energy to power our modern lives, and we need to move to getting it entirely from renewable sources to stop our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar energy is a great source of energy, and it’s bring embraced more and more – it’s no longer unusual to see solar panels on a roof, or in fields.

solar panels on roof
Solar panels roof-mounted on a house in Yate, South Gloucestershire, England. Copyright Adrian Pingstone via Wikipedia

But they’re currently big, black rectangles that take up a lot of space.

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new kind of material called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that harnesses solar energy and could mean that, because it’s transparent, in the future all our windows could work as solar panels. Imagine if all the windows in a house or school or office block were also able to capture solar energy so we could use it? Amazingly multi-purpose!

Read more about this work on the Michigan State University website

An enzyme that breaks down plastic

Plastic is, sadly, almost everywhere on our planet. It’s in our water, in our food, in every ecosystem, and it’s even inside us. And while we must eliminate unneeded plastic usage and plastic waste while we can, and look for alternatives, we also need to do something about the plastic that’s already out there.

recycling codes and logos on plastic bottles

One team of researchers might have a promising development. They’ve created an enzyme that breaks down PET plastic, the kind that’s used for plastic drinks bottles and one of the most prevalent types in the environment.

The enzyme is a type called a hydrolase, it can start to break down plastic into its constituent molecules in under twenty four hours, and those constituent parts can be recycled into new materials. It could be a solution to the masses of plastic sitting in landfill sites around the world.

What’s extra interesting is that the researchers, based at the University of Texas in Austin, used AI or artificial intelligence to create the enzyme.

Read more about this story on Forbes

Could these different ideas help?

It’s quite possible that they could, and may well if implemented. But these ideas alone aren’t enough. Every person, every organisation, every politician, every business, every country will need to join together.

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