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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.

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Nopal Cactus
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(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

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Animals

Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral

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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Environment

Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History

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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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