Connect with us

Environment

Mexican Inventors Create Eco-Friendly Leather Alternative Based on Nopal Cactus

The new material is a sustainable alternative to faux leather made with oil-based plastics, which is hard to clean and less breathable than animal leather.

Elias Marat

Published

on

Nopal Cactus

(TMU) — A pair of young inventors from Mexico will unveil the very first organic leather made entirely from the nopal—or prickly-pear cactus this week—offering a sustainable, stylish, and eco-friendly alternative to leather.

The two innovators, Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, will be travelling from the city of Guadalajara to the Lineapelle international leather trade exhibition in Milan, Italy, on October 2, where they will present the innovative leather substitute to the world’s top designers in hopes that the product can become a staple in the luxury fashion industry.

For two years, the two men worked on creating the leather alternative that they claim is not only environmentally sustainable and entirely plant-based but is also breathable and lasts for at least a decade, reports El Heraldo de México.

The invention comes as consumers and brands increasingly turn away from inferior faux leathers made with petroleum-based plastics, which are hard to clean and far less breathable than genuine animal leather.

The nopal cactus has long been a national symbol of Mexico as well as a crucial staple of the Mexican diet. Since pre-Hispanic times, the antioxidant-rich nopal has been prepared in countless ways within the Mexican kitchen—whether mixed with salads, meats, poultry, avocado, eggs, cheeses, or blended with corn tortillas, candies, and fruit juices. The staple crop is also used as feed for livestock. Millions of acres across the country are devoted to cultivating the plant, which produces abundant amounts of both fruit and vegetables.

In addition to its edible qualities, the prickly pear has also been used for medicinal purposes and as a dye for textiles and murals. In recent years, Mexican inventors have even created a nopal fiber that can be used in the aeronautics industry or as a substitute plastic for biodegradable straws and cutlery.

Cazarez explained:

“The cactus has many cosmetic applications: in shampoo, in creams.

So, we figured: ‘If it’s good for the skin, why not create a [nopal] leather?’, And this was how the idea was born.”

The two young men worked to develop the idea despite some discouraging the pair and calling the idea crazy.

Lopez said:

“Mexico has the potential to innovate, [especially] with nopal, which is the symbol of the country. But so many people told us we were crazy! Even our engineers told us that that could not be done. 

We said: ‘why not? We are in Mexico, we are Mexicans, what raw material is more suitable for us to exploit than nopal? It grows by itself, it doesn’t need much watering, it doesn’t waste much water.’

That’s when we began to experiment with the nopal and, after several tests, we were able to develop a resistant material.”

Lopez and Cazarez were also inspired by recent innovations coming out of Europe, including leathers such as Frumat—an Italian textile made from the waste from processing apples—and Piñatex, a Spanish textile woven from the fibers of discarded pineapple leaves.

https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedNews/status/1075459475086163968

After a long period of trial and error, the two made a breakthrough a few weeks ago when they devised an organic blend of nopal and cotton with the proper hand feel and attractive look that consumers require. Lopez and Cazarez also guarantee that their product can last for 10 years and has the chemical and physical properties required by the fashion, furniture, leather goods, and automotive industries.

The nopal leather can be used to make “a small dress, a purse, a belt, a watch strap, a small bookcase, or an armchair,” Cazarez noted. He added:

“Any leather can be replaced with organic alternatives; animal leathers or synthetic leathers can be replaced by organic alternatives. This is the cycle, and it supports our ecosystem.”

The inventors also rooted their dreams in the goal of assisting the farmers who grow and tend the massive cacti. Lopez said:

“It makes our work more meaningful because this isn’t only about fashion and the environment.

We also want to somehow support workers in the fields and create jobs, even indirectly.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

Animals

More than 5,000 baby seals wash up on Namibia beach in unprecedented die-off

Elias Marat

Published

on

Thousands of dead seal pups have washed ashore on the coast of Namibia, raising grave concerns from conservationist groups.

Locals were in shock after an estimated 5,000 premature cape fur seal pups washed up along the coast of Pelican Point peninsula, turning the popular tourist destination known for its thriving schools of dolphins and seal colonies into a pup graveyard.

Cape fur seals are often referred to as the “dogs of the ocean,” owing to their playful nature and abundant energy. However, the seals are known to desert their young or suffer miscarriages when food supplies are scarce.

The unprecedented die-off of the 5,000 Cape fur seals is now being probed by the country’s fisheries ministry, reports Bloomberg.

Nearly all were born prematurely before quickly dying, according to marine biologist Naude Dreyer of  Ocean Conservation Namibia.

“When the pregnant female feels she does not have enough reserves, she can abort,” he explained. “A few premature deaths is a natural event, but thousands of premature dead pups is extremely rare.”

Dreyer noticed the masses of dead seal pups while flying his drone over the Pelican Point seal colony on Oct. 5.

“This is the situation at Pelican Point, Namibia,” his non-profit group wrote in a Facebook post. “All the little red circles mark dead seal pups. A rough estimate brings the numbers to more than 5,000 at our seal colony alone. This is tragic, as it makes up a large portion of the new pup arrivals expected in late November.”

This is the situation at Pelican Point. All the little red circles mark dead seal pups. A rough estimate brings the…

Posted by Ocean Conservation Namibia on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The seals are commonly found across the southern Atlantic coastlines of the African continent, spanning Namibia and South Africa to the southern tip of Angola.

“Normally cape fur seals would give birth from mid-November until early December,” Dr. Tess Gridley told Africa News.  “That’s the height of pupping that we would normally expect but what has been happening this year is there has been an increase in abortions that was first seen starting in August and really sort of peaked just last week in October.”

However, female cape fur seals are increasingly appearing emaciated and starving, raising alarm among conservationists about the long-term health of the typically thriving seal population.

 “There are about 1.7 million cape fur seals in total and about a million of those are actually in Namibia so in terms of the overall number of animals, they are quite resilient to these effects,” Gridley explained.

“But one issue that we do think might happen in the future is you will see a dip in reproduction potentially going forward particularly now for those animals that have unfortunately died,” she continued. “They are not going to be recruited into the population, so you might see a localized effect at the Pelican Point colony and also we are trying to monitor to see whether there is a wider scale impact that might affect other colonies as well.”

An absence of fish in the region and the spread of disease and toxins in the water are among the possible reasons behind the die-off. 

“The seals look a bit thin and it could likely be caused by a lack of food,” Dreyer said. “Other seal colonies at other beaches look much better and they do not record the same amount of premature pups.”

Continue Reading

Animals

The Amazon rainforest is coming dangerously close to permanently converting into dry savannah

Elias Marat

Published

on

(TMU) – A vast swathe of the Amazon is teetering on the brink of disaster and risks crossing the tipping point of transforming from a closed canopy rainforest teeming with life to an open savannah with few trees as climate conditions deprive the region of rainfall and effectively kill its unique ecosystem, scientists have warned.

Rainforests are extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in rainfall and moisture levels, and extended periods of drought and fire can be devastating in areas that rely on rain for sustenance. In the Amazon, such conditions would transform the lush rainforest into a semi-arid savannah-like mixture of woodland and grassland while also boosting the risk of fire.

While such dramatic changes to the Amazon were believed to be worst-case scenarios that could happen decades away, a team of Europe-based scientists warned on Monday that the tipping point is now dangerously close.

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications found that as much as 40 percent of the existing Amazon rainforest is already seeing so little rainfall that it could exist as a savannah-like environment, deprived of its canopy-like tree coverage and with far less biodiversity.

Researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Center used computer models and data analysis to stimulate the effect of continued climate change resulting from emissions from burning fossil fuels from now until the end of the century to find the results.

Rainforests typically create their own rainfall through water vapor, which then sustains and even extends the reach of tree levels.

However, when rain levels plummet, forest land also begins to fade away and degrade – resulting in a drier landscape that becomes more susceptible to the ravages of fire, drought, and ultimately, total deforestation.

The situation in the Amazon has only grown worse as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has stubbornly pushed forward the opening of the rainforest to economic development, unleashing a wave of human-caused fires meant to illegally clear one of the region so that it can be exploited by miners, cattle ranchers, loggers, and big agricultural interests.

This year’s fires in the Brazilian Amazon are the worst in a decade, marking a dizzying 60 percent rise in fire hotspots compared to last year’s infamous blazes.

The rainforest is so delicate that even the most subtle changes in climate conditions can have an outsized impact on the ecological balance of the environment, said the study’s lead author, Arie Staal.

“As forests grow and spread across a region, this affects rainfall,” he told The Guardian. “Forests create their own rain because leaves give off water vapor and this falls as rain further downwind. Rainfall means fewer fires leading to even more forests.”

However, the loss of large areas of rainforest mean a precipitous drop in rainfall levels across the region.

“Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Staal said.

At that point, the rainforest crosses a threshold and converts into a savannah-type environment – a conversion that is difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

“It is harder to return from the ‘trap’ caused by the feedback mechanism in which the open, grassy ecosystem is more flammable, and the fires, in turn, keep the ecosystem open,” Staal said.

Experts have warned that the Amazon rainforest is a crucial barrier to the catastrophic breakdown of global climate conditions. Without the Amazon rainforest, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could become out of control and drive global warming to intolerable levels while the change in rainfall patterns could impact the entire Western Hemisphere.

Tragically, the loss of rainforests like the Amazon would also entail the extermination of a huge portion of global species.

“We understand now that rainforests on all continents are very sensitive to global change and can rapidly lose their ability to adapt,” said study co-author Ingo Fetzer of the Stockholm Research Center. “Once gone, their recovery will take many decades to return to their original state. And given that rainforests host the majority of all global species, all this will be forever lost.”

Continue Reading

Environment

Hurricane Sally brings massive destruction to Gulf Coast in “epic proportion flooding event”

Elias Marat

Published

on

(TMU) – While Hurricane Sally has weakened to a tropical storm, it has also unleashed massive destruction on the Gulf Coast at a steady, drawn-out rate while bringing “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding to the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama, reports the National Hurricane Center.

A bruising storm surge and torrential rain has already demolished infrastructure, knocking down a section of the Pensacola Bay Bridge – also known as the Three-Mile Bridge – and inundating the city’s downtown in about 3 feet of rain while flooding neighborhoods, homes, and businesses across the region.

Authorities are urgently warning residents to flee however they can as high water vehicles and boats conduct rescue efforts to help people escape their flooded homes.

“We believe that this is an epic proportion flooding event,” Escambia County Public Safety Director Jason Rogers told WEAR. “There is extremely high water, moving water that is very dangerous. We don’t believe that we have yet seen the worst of the flooding.”

Sally, which managed to reach the level of a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph, downgrade to a tropical storm early Wednesday after it made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama.

However, the storm’s impact remains deadly as winds hit 70 mph as of Wednesday afternoon while the eye of the storm was roughly 30 miles west-northwest of Pensacola.

Authorities are warning about the ferocity of the storm, which is creeping north-northeast at an excruciatingly grueling pace of only 5 mph, ensuring thorough destruction across the region as it threatens to potentially produce almost three feet of rain in areas as well as seven-foot-high storm surges, ensuring floods across the region.

“We anticipate the evacuations could literally be in the thousands,” warned Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.

Upwards of half a million homes and businesses across Southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle had lost power as of Wednesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.

The National Weather Service declared a flash flood emergency for “severe threat to human life & catastrophic damage from a flash flood” The warning covers sections of coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, as well as Gulf Shores and Pensacola.

Emergency services have been deluged by 911 calls across Alabama and Florida all Wednesday, according to several local governments, but first-responders have struggled to rescue residents due to the treacherous conditions, according to Santa Rosa County Public Safety Director Brad Baker.

Boats across the area have been crushed or unmoored amid the raging storm, with some boats being slammed into tourist shops and restaurants along marinas. One dramatic photo shared on Instagram showed a loose boat siting in the flooded courtyard of an Orange Beach condominium building, while flooded streets are filling up with debris and downed tree limbs.

Sally’s landfall came 16 years to the day since Category 3 Hurricane Ivan slammed the same area.

Many residents, well aware of the dangers of such storms, have prepared by purchasing essential supplies and preparing their generators for bruising storm surges.

However, the intensity and trajectory of the slow-moving tropical storm is likely to have unpredictable results.

Continue Reading

Trending