Dutch Designers Want to Turn Algae Into Greener Consumer Products

Brendan Landis, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Brendan Landis, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

For the past several decades, plastic—often made from carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels—has dominated our stores, homes, and landfills. Two Dutch designers propose a green alternative that can be found growing in your local pond. As Dezeen reports, Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros believe their algae-derived biopolymer could one day replace petroleum-based plastic all together.

The pair developed the material after studying algae at various institutions in the Netherlands for three years. Following that period, they founded an open research and algae production lab at the Luma Foundation in Arles, France.

Once they cultivate the living algae, the designers then dry it and process it to make the moldable material. The polymer can be fed into special 3D printers that use it to churn out items like bowls and vases. Klarenbeek and Dros envision a future where communities have access to a network of these biopolymer 3D printers, which they call “the 3D Bakery.” Instead of purchasing goods that have been shipped across the world, consumers could stop into a store and “bake” their purchases from the algae-stocked 3D printer on site. They claim that dishware, trash cans, and shampoo bottles can be made this way.

The algae lab does more than eliminate the harmful CO2 byproducts from plastic production—it also purifies the air of existing CO2. Algae consumes the gas from the water and atmosphere as it grows while expelling clean oxygen. The result is a process that goes one step beyond zero emissions.

Klarenbeek and Dros aren’t the first people to think to replace plastic with organic algae. Designer Ari Jónsson successfully used the plant to make water bottles that biodegrade over time. The products coming out of the algae lab, on the other hand, are made to last longer. The design duo plans to start supplying their biopolymer to restaurants and catering companies within the city of Arles. To see how they harvest the raw algae used to make their products, check out the video below.

[h/t Dezeen]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Beavers on Devon's River Otter to Become England's First Permanent Population in Centuries

Beavers were hunted to extinction in England in the 16th century, so locals were surprised to find a group of the mammals living on Devon's River Otter in 2008. Instead of moving the beavers, the Devon Wildlife Trust monitored the population to see how it would interact with the local environment. Now, as The Guardian reports, the government has deemed the beaver reintroduction program a success, meaning the species now has a permanent home in the country for the first time in centuries.

Though the North American beaver is better known, beavers are also native to Europe. Hunting reduced the Eurasian Beaver population to 1200 specimens by 1900. Their numbers have recovered in the years since, but they're still mainly limited to Scandinavia, Germany, France, Poland, and central Russia.

The beaver group currently living on the River Otter likely originated with either an accidental or unauthorized release. When local authorities discovered the beavers were breeding in 2014, they intended to relocate them to protect the local ecosystem. The Devon Wildlife Trust proposed an alternative: Allow the population to live on the river undisturbed for five years, and only remove them if they were proven to cause harm by the end of the trial.

The beavers did not hurt the environment—they actually added several benefits, according to the five-year study. The population, which now consists of 15 family groups, constructed 28 dams throughout the river system. These dams helped slow water flow during floods and contained water during droughts that would normally dry up riverbeds. The beaver-engineered habitat also allowed an increase in the number of water voles, fish, and amphibians.

When the trial officially ends on August 31, the beavers will become permanent residents of Devon in the eyes of the government. They're concentrated on the River Otter for now, but they're expected to expand beyond it, potentially starting new beaver populations in other parts of England for the first time in modern history.

[h/t The Guardian]