Mushroom Eaters

Researchers from Yale University, in the USA have discovered a fungus that likes to eat plastic. The fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, was discovered during a two-week trip to the South American country of Ecuador. The findings, published in a recent issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, revealed that the fungus can digest polyurethane and can also do so in oxygen-deprived locations, such as deep inside a landfill.

Similar findings have been detailed by author and mycologist, Paul Stamets. Stamets discovered oyster mushrooms and fungus-derived enzymes that are capable of breaking down various hydrocarbon-based toxins - like those found in the BP Gulf Oil Spill in a process he calls mycoremediation.

Description: Pestalotiopsis microspora

Generally considered to be a safe plastic with few health risks, polyurethane is a plastic polymer that is commonly found in items such as insulation, furniture cushions and mattresses, adhesives, shoe soles and car parts. Like all plastic, it can be ingested by wildlife, and residue is found throughout oceanic ecosystems, causing concern from environmental advocacy groups. The researchers of this study hope that this discovery may aid in finding a way to help break down the plastics that gather in landfills around the world, damaging the environment.

Make the Switch

Description: Make the Switch

In 2007, Australia became the first country to "ban the bulb", drastically reducing domestic usage of incandescent light bulbs. By late 2010, incandescent bulbs had been totally phased out, and, according to the country's environment minister, this simple move has made a big difference, cutting an estimated four million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. China also recently pledged to replace the 1 billion incandescent bulbs used in its government offices with more energy efficient models within five years.

International Year of Sustainable Energy

The USA has designated 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, food security and poverty. "With so many poor in the world, addressing these issues is critical," says Danielle Nierenberg,            director of the institute's Nourishing the Planet project. "Fortunately, the solutions to these problems can come from simple innovations and practices."

Did you know?

According to World Watch magazine, the equivalent of 270 000 trees worldwide is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and 10% of that total is attributable to toilet paper.

Africa's First Green City

Menlyn Maine in Pretoria is set to be Africa's first green city, one of only 17 worldwide that fall under the Climate Positive Programmme. The programme, a Clinton Climate Initiative, recognizes that while increased urbanization is inevitable, cities can still grow in "climate positive" ways. Some of the green features include storm water tanks built into the structure and roof of buildings. The water will be treated and circulated for re-use inside and outside the building and is expected to provide non-potable water for almost a full year. Primary contractor for the development, WHBO, recycled 21 968kg of crushed concrete, 17 000kg of steel and 2 740kg of wood onsite, which will be put back into buildings or used in the next phase. The precinct aims to be the first in Africa to be climate positive - reducing onsite greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Description: An artist's impression of the new Menlyn Maine development in Pretoria

An artist's impression of the new Menlyn Maine development in Pretoria

Choose Recycled Glass

Did you know that glass can be recycled many times?

According to glass company Consol, recycling one glass bottle saves the equivalent energy to burning 100-watt light bulb for nearly an hour. It can also power a TV for 20 minutes, or a computer for 25 minutes. Recycling glass saves water and natural resources and reduces landfill waste. An amazing fact about using cullet (recycled glass) is that there are no fusion losses in the melting process. In other words, one ton of cullet has the ability to remake one ton of bottles. In contrast it takes approximately 1, 2 tons virgin botch material to manufacture one ton of glass. The recovery and recycling of used glass containers has always been of critical importance to Consol Glass. Over the past years Consol has invested a great deal of finance and staffing in ensuring that glass recycling moves from strength to strength. As port of its social responsibility and community development programmes, Consol is committed to ensuring that recycling of glass continues to benefit both the environment and entrepreneurs throughout Southern Africa.


Recycled glass bottle

Toys R Us Rewards for Recycling

Toys R Us and Reggies have launched Go Green to encourage their customers to dispose of their batteries responsibly and avoid throwing them into their dustbins. Batteries contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals which contribute to soil contamination and water pollution. The Go Green campaign encourages customers to bring in any old batteries (regardless of brand or quantity) to their closest store, deposit them in the recycling dispenser and receive a 10% discount on 0 new pack of Reggies or Toys R Us batteries.

"Our business has a high usage of batteries in the toys we sell, so we felt it is important to promote recycling and the correct disposal of these batteries as our contribution to a healthier environment," said director of Toys R Us South Africa and Reggies, Issy Zimmerman.

Description: Recycling Batteries

Recycling Batteries

Innovative Packaging

When two innovative women, Helma Potgieter and Rosemary Fowkes, founded Pampiri Indaba (direct translation: paper matter of importance) in September 2010; their main goals were to reduce paper waste by converting newspaper and magazines donated by          the residents of their hometown Kleinmond into sturdy, attractive gift packaging and to provide interesting work and an income for women who, through no fault of their own, had no tertiary education and so no hope of work, except housecleaning. Pampiri Indaba exists to create meaningful work for unskilled women and awareness about recycling and using recycled materials, and to reduce paper waste by upcycling it into something useful; the link is very direct between individual wellbeing and the earth's health. They manufacture beautiful paper bags, out of clients' own waste, newspapers, magazines, old annual reports and calendars which can be customised to your specific requirements. Pampiri Indaba is located in Kleinmond, South Africa and they can ship their bags directly to you.

Description: Pampiri Indaba

Innovative packaging

Tips for greener living

  •  Make gardens with plants that are indigenous to the area and don't need much watering plant those thirsty flowers you love in pots.
  •  Get a recycling bin and teach your family to wash recyclables before putting them in the bin.
  • When visiting the beach or other natural areas be careful to make sure you "take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints".
  • Save and re-use plastic bags like bread bags for wrapping foodstuffs rather than using new ones.
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