Greening Technology

Smiling Switch Makes You Happy to Conserve Electricity

Would making your switches look adorable help you to conserve energy? A design by Zhou Yide, Euphe Mo, Hang Zhou & Christine Liu tests the theory. The switch is circular, and when you’ve turned it off, it looks like it is smiling joyfully at you.

It really is an adorable idea. We’ve seen a lot of concepts for switches that encourage people to turn them off, or unplug a device, or simply be aware how much energy is consumed, but none look quite as cute as this.

It also has earned recognition, winning a Lite-On Award earlier in the year. The goal of the competition is this:

“Living in the modern world means being flooded with convenient but far from environmentally sustainable products. The Lite-On Award invites designers to get back to the basics. Let’s think about how to breath new life into our products through green thinking. Let’s think about how to reconnect to the planet and keep it flourishing.”

Think a smiling light switch accomplishes that? The only down side is the smiling mouth lights up at night so you can find the switch, which means a little more energy than necessary is consumed. Perhaps if this makes it to market, that’ll be an optional feature.

If Genetically Modified Trees Could Help Stop Climate Change Would You Support Them?

Some new research in Bioscience outlines different ways in which genetically modifying trees and plants to help them increase their carbon sequestration potential to fight climate change -

Photo: Luis Argerich/Creative Commons

we’re talking billions of tons of carbon a year here immediately raises the question of support for them. If GM trees could really help stop climate change, would that make you any more likely to support them? The paper Photosequestration: Carbon Biosequestration by Plants and Prospects of Genetic Engineering, goes through a number of ways in which trees and plants act as carbon sinks (through biomass, in soil, biochar, use in wood products, bioenergy crops) and examines ways in which genetic modification could boost this: Enhancing photosynthesis, increasing the carbon allocation to roots, improving tolerance to environmental stresses such as salinization and drought conditions, and improving biomass quality in bioenergy crops. It’s all interesting from a technological point of view and I encourage those interested to dig into the original report for more info. But what’s the theoretical payoff of using GM technology along these lines?

The report authors show that maximizing photosynthesis could lead to a 50% increase in productivity, calculating that on land currently under cultivation this could boost carbon storage by 2-3 gigatons annually. GM tweaking of other aspects of carbon storage could produce an additional 6-8 gigatons of storage.

Now that’s by no means an insignificant amount of increase, but it’s also less than one-third of total carbon emissions caused by human activity. And the researchers specifically note that this is just one of many policy and technological tools available to increase carbon sequestration in natural vegetation and crops (AIBS BioScience).

Considering that, would you back using GM plants in this manner? Obviously some of the same issues that dog other GM crops would still be in play: Health issues, cross contamination with non-GM plants, and (the bigger issue to me) continued consolidation of corporate control over essential elements of life. What do TreeHugger readers think?
Shared by TreeHugger, an online media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability
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