Annie Reneau

Two weeks ago, I was enjoying a leisurely seaside breakfast in Bali, watching the waves of the Indian Ocean roll in. It was an idyllic scene—palm trees, warm sun, turquoise waters—exactly the kind of place we call paradise.

As I sipped my coffee, my travel companion and I noticed a group of people gathered on the beach. They meandered along the shore, raking through the sand and placing things into a wheelbarrow. I thought perhaps they were treasure hunting, but a waiter told us they were picking up trash that had washed ashore overnight.

After breakfast, we walked along that same beach. Even after the big group cleanup, there was a lot that they'd missed. A few plastic bags here, a disposable diaper there.

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Photo by Vivianne Lemay on Unsplash

Those of us who want a sustainable future for our grandkids try really hard to do the right things for our planet. We grew up internalizing the three R's–Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—but it appears that one of those Rs has not lived up to its promise.

We all know that plastic and excessive packaging of all kinds are problematic, but most of us don't worry about it too much because most of it can be recycled anyway, right? We cheerfully put our yogurt containers and pizza boxes and egg cartons into our curbside recycling bin, confident that we've done our part for the environment by not throwing them into a landfill.

We imagine our municipalities taking that recycling to some kind of local recycling plant, where our plastic and paper gets transformed into shiny new eco-friendly products. Right?

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Wikipedia / LightSail2

Sometimes the most advanced forms of technology are also the simplest. The LightSail 2, a satellite conceived by Bill Nye's non-profit Planetary Society, has proven that a satellite can orbit the Earth fueled completely by the sun. The concept, dreamed up 400 years ago by Johannes Kepler, has finally become a reality.

The LightSail 2 doesn't run on solar panels but instead solar sailing – an entirely different concept. It's kind of like a sailboat, but instead of using wind to make it move, it's powered by photon particles from the sun that bounce off of a sail made from a large reflective surface. The photon particles give it a "tiny push no stronger than the weight of a paperclip," Nye told CNN.

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TheUK has just completed a full week without using coal, for the first time since the first coal-fired power station for public use was opened in London in 1882.

The National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) said on Twitter that at 1.24 p.m. on Wednesday, the UK had officially gone 168 hours without coal — seven days exactly.

“While this is the first time this has happened, I predict it will become the new normal,” said Fintan Slye, director of ESO, in a statement.

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