California Startup Pays Users to Consume Less Energy

iStock
iStock

You may know that turning off the lights when leaving a room or lowering the thermostat before bed are smart habits, but with no way to see their immediate impact, they can be hard to keep. OhmConnect is built around the premise that more people would follow through with these actions if they had a little motivation. As Fast Company reports, the San Francisco-based startup rewards California residents for their green choices with real cash.

The mission of the company is to prevent energy grids from using costly and dirty emergency power plants by encouraging customers to conserve power when demand outweighs supply. During “OhmHours,” users receive a text suggesting energy-saving practices. They can choose to opt out or agree to make an effort to lower their consumption. If their usage in the next hour is lower than the average for their home on that type of day (weekdays are compared to the weekday average; weekends to the weekend average) they receive points which can be redeemed for money. The more people participate on a regular basis, the more points they’re able to earn.

Participants in homes equipped with smart devices like a Nest thermostat or Belkin smart switches can program them to automatically consume less during those times. Nearly a fifth of the user base chooses some type of automatic response.

Someone living in a small apartment participating once a week has the potential to make $40 to $50 a year, while a family living in a larger home can earn up to $200. The California energy grid has also reaped the benefits: Since launching in 2014, OhmConnect has saved the state a total of 100 megawatts (the equivalent of not running two emergency power plants at high-demand times). California residents who get their energy through Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas & Electric can sign up to participate online. If you don’t live in the state but are interested in the service, you may get a chance to try it out soon: OhmConnect plans to expand to Texas, Toronto, and potentially the East Coast.

[h/t Fast Company]

The World's First Human Composting Facility Is Coming to Seattle

Simotion/iStock via Getty Images
Simotion/iStock via Getty Images

The state of Washington will soon be home to the world’s first human composting facility, reports IFL Science.

The facility is a project of Recompose, a Seattle-based company founded by architect Katrina Spade. When it opens in 2021, Recompose will offer $5500 services that turn a human body into one cubic yard of soil over the course of 30 days. Families of the deceased can take as much soil as they like—any remainder goes to sustaining conservation land in the Puget Sound region.

Recompose is one of several organizations working to provide more eco-friendly after-death options. Critics charge that more conventional choices, like embalming and cremation, have their share of issues. The formaldehyde used in embalming is carcinogenic, and Spade estimates that the combined formaldehyde found in all U.S. cemeteries could fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Plus, traditional burials take up land that’s quickly becoming scarce in urban areas. Cremation isn’t much better, environmentally speaking—a single cremation requires about the same amount of energy that an individual would use over a month, and it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“For every person that chooses to be recomposed instead of cremated or buried, it will save just over a metric ton of carbon, which is pretty significant,” Spade told CityLab in January.

Recompose was made possible by a first-in-the-nation Washington state bill, signed in May, legalizing the practice of the “natural organic reduction” of human remains. Now all that’s left is for Recompose to become a legally licensed funeral home (required before it can start taking people’s payments).

“I think in general, death is a really personal thing,” Spade told CityLab. “And people experience death of a loved one in so many ways. So our goal with recomposition is just to add more choice when it comes to death of a loved one, so that it’s still really personal.”

[h/t IFL Science]

Why Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Washed Up on a California Beach

Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0
Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0

Nature works in mysterious ways. The latest example materialized at Drakes Beach near San Francisco, California, in early December, when visitors strolling along the shore stumbled upon what looked to be the discarded inventory of an adult novelty shop. In fact, it was thousands of Urechis caupo, a marine worm that bears more than a passing resemblance to a human penis.

The engorged pink invertebrate, which is typically 10 inches in length, is native to the Pacific coast and frequently goes by the less salacious name of “fat innkeeper worm.” Burrowing in sand, the worm produces mucus from its front end to ensnare plankton and other snacks, then pumps water to create a vacuum where the food is directed into their tunnel. Since it builds up a small nest of discarded food, other creatures like crabs will stop by to feed, hence the “innkeeper” label.

You can see the worm in "action" here:

Because the worms enjoy a reclusive life in their burrows, it’s unusual to see thousands stranded on the beach. It’s likely that a strong storm broke up the intertidal sand, decimating their homes and leaving them exposed. The event is likely to thrill otters, as they enjoy dining on the worm. So do humans: Penis fish are served both raw and cooked in Korea and China.

[h/t Live Science]

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