Tag Archives: sustainability

Plastic-Eating Fungus Revisited: Plastic-Fungus Fusion Food

plastic-wasteBack in March 2012, I wrote about some scientists who had discovered a fungus in the jungles of Ecuador, a fungus that can eat plastic.

At the time, I applauded the discovery as an exciting possible solution to the HUGE global problem of plastic waste, but I also expressed some lighthearted caution, imagining a scenario worthy of a sci-fi/action/thriller movie, wherein the fungus mutates, escapes, and feasts on all of the plastic we’re still actually using, plastic we depend on for a great many things.

A scenario I never in a million years would have imagined, however, is one I stumbled upon today, wherein an Austrian design firm, LIVIN, has teamed up with scientists at Utrecht University, to move beyond the fungus eating the plastic, and toward a more holistic-if-unappetizing, food-chain-integrated approach:

Introducing, via GOOD.is’ Jed Oelbaum: The Fungi Mutarium

The device uses fungus in little cups made of agar (a seaweed-based jelly) to digest sterilized plastic, which is metabolized into the fungus, leaving no traces of the original waste. But that’s not even the best part: after the plastic is digested, the agar cups and their resultant contents are completely edible. Yes, that’s right, these fungi actually turn plastic into something you can eat.

Well Jed, maybe that’s something YOU could eat, but I ain’t touching it! Ewwwwww!

(Not entirely incidentally, they call the agar cups “FUs”, which had me wondering whether or not this wasn’t just an elaborate hoax, but my further Googling on the subject seems to point to it being legit.)

Now, something Jed Oelbaum doesn’t explain is why the photos he included seem to suggest that the Fungi Mutarium is apparently meant to be operated wearing nothing but a Soviet-grey nightgown…

fungi-mutarium1

…and the fungus-plastic fusion food is apparently meant to be eaten wearing nothing at all!

fungi-mutarium2

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!

But, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it.

The folks at LIVIN have gone so far as to design a line of utensils to be used specifically for the consumption of this product.

And while these guys try to make it sound appetizing…well…ewwww!

Scratch the fungi off the wall of this sensual cutlery and simultaneously mix with the sweet or sour sauce that tops your favorite agar FU.

fungi-mutarium3

fungi-mutarium4

The shape of the moon spoon glides along your agar FU to reach even the tiniest fungi fruit bodies on it. It can also be loaded with the delicious agar „meat“.

fungi-mutarium5

Anyway, to see the Fungi Mutarium in action, check out this brief, Stanley Kubrick-esque video presentation:

Buy Local: Holiday Edition

local1I’ve mentioned here several times over the years how much I appreciate my adopted hometown of Bellingham, Washington, for its deep commitment to a local living economy, this idea that the whole community benefits when we choose to support locally-owned businesses. It’s more than a slogan here, as evident by the fact that we have so many local businesses that are thriving.

This wasn’t always the case.

When I first moved to Bellingham in 1993, the downtown area west of Interstate 5 was practically a ghost town. A once-thriving commercial district, in 1988 it was nearly abandoned by businesses, including critical anchor department stores J.C. Penny, Sears, and The Bon Marché (now Macy’s), when the Bellis Fair Mall opened on the other side of I-5, followed by the usual suspect national “big box” chain stores along the same stretch of road, heading north, away from downtown, a road known as the Guide Meridian.

Slowly but surely, however, an unlikely and wonderful thing started to happen.

One-by-one, locally-owned businesses started popping up: restaurants, shops, art galleries, music venues, a farmers market, and even a non-profit independent cinema!

Today, not only is downtown Bellingham thriving thanks to local businesses, but our second largest commercial area west of the freeway, the Historic Fairhaven District, consists almost entirely of locally-owned. In fact, with the exception of a couple of gas stations and banks, the only non-local businesses I can think of downtown and in Fairhaven are Starbucks and Taco Del Mar, and both are headquartered just 90 miles south in Seattle.

Again, this can only happen with a community commitment, whereby some community members choose to invest in starting up businesses, and the rest of the community invests in supporting those businesses.

So, wherever you are, supporting your locally-owned businesses just makes sense on SO many levels. Give it a try!

And, to drive this message home, here’s a fantastic infographic courtesy of Advocates for Independent Business:

holidayshopping_infographic

Eco-Flushing: Revisited

greenflush1Back in August 2011, I posted the first photo you see here, after having discovered this Eco-Flushing For Dummies toilet on the campus where I work.

The placard above the toilet explains:

  • the green flush handle should be pulled up for liquid waste;
  • it should be pressed down for solid waste;
  • it is coated to protect against germs; and
  • “For the system to work, we need your help. Please take a look at the diagram…and push the handle in the direction which best suits your needs. With your assistance, we can do our part to conserve this precious resource.”

At the time, I applauded the toilet and declared it superior to another prominent dual-flush design that, I felt, fails to make it clear what the two buttons are for:

dual

I stand by my assertion that the two-button design is less than informative, but I do have to admit that the Eco-Flushing For Dummies toilet, while ok in a public bathroom setting, perhaps particularly appropriate on a high school or college campus where, you know, education is a thing, it may not be the best, most aesthetically-appealing choice for the home or, let’s say, an elegant restaurant.

Enter John Liow’s Half:

half-toilet

Via Inhabitat:

“Half” is an observation of how suggestive design can more intentionally encourage the use of the water-saving “half flush” function on a dual-flush toilet. The white half is designed to be smooth and inviting while the black half is sharp and offensive, encouraging conscious water usage.

Read more about industrial designer John Liow’s Half and “suggestive design” at Index: Design to Improve Life.

More Chandeliers From Recycled Bicycle Parts

light-1Similar to a post I did back in October 2012, this could easily belong in my Tweet of the Day, Eyecatchers, or Upcycling series…

…AND, both posts involve chandeliers made from recycled bicycle parts…

…AND, both posts were sourced from tweets by Christopher Jobson at Colossal.

…AND, since Fish & Bicycles LOVES all things bicycle, this was a no-brainer.

The amazing bike part lighting here, titled Ballroom Luminoso, the work of Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock, is installed in a highway underpass in San Antonio, Texas, taking street art to a whole other level.

Via Colossal:

Ballroom Luminoso references the area’s past, present, and future in the design of its intricately detailed medallions. The images in the medallions draw on the community’s agricultural history, strong Hispanic heritage, and burgeoning environmental movement. The medallions are a play on the iconography of La Loteria, which has become a touchstone of Hispanic culture. Utilizing traditional tropes like La Escalera (the Ladder), La Rosa (the Rose), and La Sandía (the Watermelon), the piece alludes to the neighborhood’s farming roots and horticultural achievements. Each character playfully rides a bike acting as a metaphor for the neighborhood’s environmental progress, its concurrent eco-restoration projects, and its developing cycling culture.

Anyway, here are some more photos of this amazing work:

light-7

light-6

light-3

light-5

Upcycling: Awesome Piano Bike!

piano-bikeAs a blogger who LOVES bicycles, and who has the word bicycle in the title of his blog, how can I not write about this?

Via grist.org:

What would you do if you had an old $80 piano and a big tricycle? Would you throw them out? Not if you were San Francisco musician Gary Skaggs. He turned this seemingly useless combo into gold…

Since 2008, Skaggs has been taking his bike to San Francisco’s hopping tourist area, the Embarcadero, to perform. And he gets lots of tips. Take that, recession/supposed recovery!

Upcycling at it’s finest, zero emission transportation, exercise, and musical entertainment all in one package!

That’s awesomeness.

Here’s a video about Gary and his wondeful piano bike. Pedal on, Gary!

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Slow Down and Slow Bike

Originally Published: August 3, 2011


Just came across a fun piece at treehugger.com that introduced me to the Slow Bicycle Movement:

Copenhagenizing Has Another Name: The Slow Bike Movement

We have talked about “Copenhagenizing“, Mikael Colville-Anderson’s term for learning to ride bikes like they do in Copenhagen, in street clothes, at a comfortable pace, usually without a helmet. Andrew Sullivan points us to the American version, where it has become part of the Slow Movement, and is now called Slow Biking.

The whole blog post and the pages it links to are totally worth the time to read, and it all really resonated with me.

Often, when I tell people that I ride my bicycle to work everyday, I’m asked if I’m into road cycling or mountain biking. And, when I answer that I’m not, they seem perplexed. For some, it’s hard to understand why anyone would ride a bicycle just for purposes of transportation. For them, cycling is all about getting stronger and stronger, going farther and farther, getting faster and faster, either or all of those. For them, that kinda thing is fun, and I respect that. (I think of my friend and fellow blogger Mike McQuaide, who does things like riding up the last eight miles of Mt. Baker Highway four times in one day, at a total elevation gain of 9,200 feet. Just.Wow.)

For me, however, while I was quite the athlete and participated in numerous sports when I was younger, I’m no longer interested. I absolutely need and want exercise, I desire to be healthy and active. But, commuting to work on my bicycle or cycling around town on errands, hiking (not mountaineering) to a modest peak or ridge for a nice view, or paddling a kayak on calm or, at most, lightly-choppy water, keeping an eye out for harbor seals, is my idea of fun, and the fact that it just happens to be good fitness is merely icing on the cake, to use a terribly incongruous figure of speech.

There’s this guy I know, who also commutes by bicycle to our workplace at Western Washington University, a campus situated atop a fairly substantial hill, he’s considerably older than me, and I didn’t think it was possible to pedal as slowly as he does on the hill without gravity pulling him back down.

And yet, he doesn’t appear to be laboring at all. Rather, he seems to be completely at peace and content, no matter the weather, day in and day out, and when I occasionally see him locking up his bike on campus in the morning he’s not breathing hard and he looks like he hasn’t broken a sweat.

It seems to me that in these modern times, in this, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Coupland, accelerated culture, the slow bicycle movement can bring some balance to one’s life. You don’t have to commute to work every day, or any day for that matter. All you have to do is get on your bike and ride, slowly, and breathe normally, take in your surroundings, smile at the people you pass by, stop to say hello even, or ask them to join you.

Now, if I could only leave my house about 10 minutes earlier everyday, I could practice what I’m preaching and not have to rush to work, inevitably arriving sweaty and gasping for breath.

It really is so very Zen.

Bellingham’s Coal Train Blues: An Open Letter To Bellingham Mayor, Kelli Linville

Coal_TrainIn this latest addition to my continuing series of posts on the battle, here in my beloved Bellingham, Washington, over a proposed coal shipping terminal just north of town, some great Earth Day news on the subject prompted me to write to Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, to implore her to take a stand.


Dear Mayor Linville,

It was with tremendous pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest that I learned of the Earth Day announcement yesterday by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn concerning the newly-formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

The time is now, Mayor Linville, for you to take a stand against coal and join this coalition.

I appreciate that, up until now, you’ve been taking a cautious approach to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, careful, as of course you would and should be, not to be too hasty in opposing a project that could bring some badly-needed family wage jobs and tax revenue to the county.

However, members of the Bellingham community, your constituents, through groups like ReSources for Sustainable Communities and CommunityWise Bellingham have done a fantastic job researching the possible local and regional impacts of the GPT, and there’s more than enough evidence out there already, even before the EIS scoping is determined, to see that the terminal would be a disaster, both environmentally and economically, for Whatcom County, Bellingham, and the region.

And now you see, from this new alliance of regional leaders and tribes, as well as from the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments received during the scoping process were in opposition to the GPT:

via TheNorthernLight.com (emphasis in bold added):

The report categorizes comments based on where and how they were received as well as by their issue of concern. Of the 124,889 comments, 108,995 were received as signatures on bulk form letters from various groups in support or opposed to the project, 1,207 were verbal comments submitted during scoping meetings and 14,687 were submitted individually in writing.

…and finally from recent reports that the demand for coal from China is on the decline, as they make massive investment in renewables, that there is a groundswell and momentum, a perfect time for you to announce that you’ve had time to consider all of the implications of the GPT and have decided to join the Leadership Alliance Against Coal.

Again, I appreciate your leadership and your initial decision to not rush into a stance on the coal terminal. But, Bellingham has become nationally-known for our community’s commitment to sustainability, and the GPT project is entirely antithetical to Bellingham’s hard-earned reputation and proud identity.

Thank you for your consideration.