One of America's most famous highways is about to become an awesome science experiment.

There's a highway in America that's so famous, it has its own rock song which goes like this:

"Well if you ever plan to motor West, just take my way, that’s the highway, that’s the best…”

(That's the Chuck Berry version, obviously.)


Image by Vincente Villamon/Flickr

Designated in 1926, Route 66 traversed almost 2,500 miles, starting in Chicago, Illinois, and ending in Santa Monica, California. It was the most direct path for many folks traveling west during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

As such, it was one of the first official highways in America.

After 90 years, ol' Route 66 is making history — again.

It's about to become the first public roadway to receive a solar panel makeover, thanks to Idaho start-up Solar Roadways.

Solar panel hexagons. Crazy. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

The project is starting small but has plans to scale up quickly. To start, the solar panels will be applied to the walkway around the highway's welcome center in Conway, Missouri, but the plan is to eventually extend the paneling to the highway itself.

Julie and Scott Brusaw, the creators of Solar Roadway, who also happen to be childhood sweethearts. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

These solar roadways will be made up of hexagonal solar panels that conduct clean energy.

According to the start-up's "very conservative" calculations, if all the roads and walking surfaces in America were covered in these solar panels, they'd generate three times as much energy as we use. Not only would this make the U.S. much more environmentally friendly, it would drive energy costs way down.

But that's not all they're capable of.

The panels are intelligent — meaning they can be programed to act as roadway signs and can be changed as needed to alert drivers to animal crossings or downed trees, and they can heat up in the winter to prevent ice from forming. That means municipalities wouldn't have to spend tax dollars on things like street painting, signage, or snow removal from roadways.

Sounds pretty great, right?

Close-up of the glass plate texture. Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

Of course, no innovative technology is without potential drawbacks. Yes, installing and repairing smart solar roadways will be more expensive than regular asphalt roads. Yes, the Solar Roadway glass panels, while apparently rough like asphalt and able to withstand the weight of a truck, could easily be worn down over time and might need to be replaced often. And yes, there are concerns about the safety of driving on glass panels in various extreme weather conditions.

However, since these concerns were first raised back when Solar Roadways first made headlines in 2014, the company has worked hard to improve the panels.

Image via Scott Brusaw/YouTube.

Solar Roadways has found ways to cut installation costs and increase solar energy gain by 25% per panel, and it's running numerous tests on the sheerness of the panels and weather/moisture impact.

They also raised over $2,000,000 on Indiegogo (over twice their goal), partnering with the Missouri Department of Transportation to launch the inaugural project and install the panels alongside Route 66.

"I appreciate the Missouri Department of Transportation for taking a pro-active approach and embracing new technologies that will pave the way toward a brighter future,” Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement.

Route 66. Photo by Einar Jørgen Haraldseid/Flickr.

While pricey, over time, these solar roadways should eventually "pay for themselves," as the project's catchy video suggests, by churning out a significant amount of energy just for being on the ground.

Once these solar panels are installed on public roadways and walkways, it will become clear just how quickly taxpayers can expect a return on their investment. Sure, it's a bit of a gamble, but aren't all technological innovations at first?

If these solar panels work as well as they promise to, they could be a real game-changer for energy consumption — making energy cheaper, more adaptable, and much, much cleaner.

As Chuck Berry sings in "Route 66": "Would you get hip to this kindly tip. Yes and go take that California trip. Get your kick on Route 66."

And there's no better way to get your kicks than by supporting solar energy initiatives on one of America's oldest and most notorious highways.

Learn more about Solar FREAKIN' Roadways here:

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.