The Bees that Make Honey with Cannabis Resin

He is an artisan, locksmith and above all a beekeeper, although he does not carry out the last profession like others. His more than 4300 Facebook followers and 700 Instagram followers are looking for something that nobody else can offer: marvellous photos where cannabis plants receive an agreeable visit. Although most of us would be scared to find bees on our crop, that is the main goal of this 39-year-old Frenchman who describes himself as an advocate of medical cannabis and of legalisation.

He is called Nicolas, although he is known as Nicolas Trainerbees, a nickname that is not a mere coincidence. He has been using it for more than 20 years because he has always liked to spend time with all kinds of animals, especially insects, and above all, bees. He observes them, and according to him (although without revealing his tactics), he trains them so that they behave as he wishes.

“I have trained bees to do several things, such as collect sugar from fruits, instead of using flowers”. In addition to beers, he has also worked with tarantulas, lizards and ants because, as he explains, he has “been passionate about nature since childhood”. This has led him to learn about the world of animal biology, entomology, cannabis growing, improving all kinds of plants and everything related to the world of beehives.

For a while now he has been working with bees that produce “cannahoney”, the name he decided to give to his peculiar cannabis honey. However, he modestly says that he has not created honey, “but rather a training technique whereby the bees collect the resin and use it in the beehive”. Afterwards, the final substance is the sole work of the little insects.

How did a beekeeper decide that his bees should obtain nectar from cannabis? Firstly, due to personal experience. Nicolas has been hyperactive since the age of 7, and that along with an educational system that labelled him as “unsuitable”, soon led him to leave school. At a young age he discovered that the plant helped him to channel the problem and, therefore, “I began consuming before the age of 10”, he states.

Years later, many people that know about his abilities raising and training bees began to ask him why he would not start applying them to the world of cannabis, and get the insects to create a kind of honey with the cannabis plants. He had realised that, by uniting the properties of both things, and if the animals managed to use the resin correctly, he would obtain a great result: “For some time I had known about the health benefits of bee products such as honey, propolis, pollen, wax and royal jelly and also about the benefits of cannabis”, and so he decided to take notice of the requests.

Also, “everything that passes through the body of a bee is improved”, he says, given that their enzymes make the nectar turn into the desired honey. The resin obtained from willows, poplars and other trees is turned into propolis, which is an antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, antibacterial and also has healing properties. “So if the bee took the resin from cannabis it would also be very beneficial”. “The aim arose for me to get the bees to obtain this resin “, he comments.

From that moment onwards (back in 2006) he spent time observing them, examining the hives and the behaviour of their members and thinking that there had to be a way of attracting a good group of insects to the resin. “That was the starting point for my investigation”, he explains. When he began his inquiries he found that up until then nobody had brought together both worlds, and the most sceptical people even told him that cannabis was not a typical plant for obtaining honey, therefore it would be impossible to get the bees to go by themselves to collect its particular pollen. Nicolas has shown the most simple-minded people that they were wrong.

Following several tests and lots of observation he managed to get results from his training in 2013, “with the enormous surprise that the bees used the resin as propolis” and also to create honey with the same effects as cannabis. Its terpenes have “a delicious and pleasant taste” that are reminiscent of the fresh plant, although its taste changes slightly from one crop to another.

“Cannahoney” normally has “quite a floral” aroma and a colour that slightly changes depending on the varieties, although it usually ranges from light green to white or yellow. The substance “is not smoked, it is ingested and it is good for health”, explains the creator.

Nicolas uses varieties of cannabis that he has created. He says that, “the bees accept any strain”, therefore he also uses already existing types. In fact, the last batch of honey was created using Californian Orange.

Before he obtained his first results, some people dared to say that cannabis was harmful for bees. He was totally convinced that was not the case, but he had to wait two years until the project was well consolidated and he was able to demonstrate that the plants had no negative impact on the insects. “The bees that produce the cannahoney are not affected by cannabinoids because they do not have an endocannabinoid system”, he explains.

He now has 30 beehives, and he uses many of them for his cannabis honey project. However, he faces difficulties living in a country that puts up a lot of barriers in relation to all cannabis matters, therefore he is forced to grow his plants in open air spaces, far from his home. In this situation he takes a lot of risks, especially trying to transport his plants close to the hives during the necessary time so that the bees can take advantage of their new “pollen”.

His situation does not prevent him interacting with his followers over social networks, where he normally publishes lots of research studies that back the medical properties of cannabis that he himself experiments with. The photographs that he publishes speak for themselves; in them it is possible to see not only the plants accompanied by the bees, but also, for example, crepes created by him and served with his honey. Nicolas dedicates almost all of his time to this profession; therefore he has no website or blogs: “I work alone with my wife and I do not have time or money to do much else”.

Such attractive photos ensure that many users ask him endlessly when they will be able to get hold of the substance, although he admits that he still requires a more detailed analysis in order to determine all of its properties. Despite this, he states that three people with anxiety tried a few spoonfuls “and felt a lot better”.

His progress is now an example to follow for many other beekeepers. Now, his main aim is to leave France in order to treat his illness legally and also to work with more freedom and get professionals in the sector to analyse his work. His next destination, if everything goes as he hopes, will be Spain.


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New species of bird discovered in India and China

The Himalayan Forest Thrush Zoothera salimalii, Dulongjiang, Yunnan province, China, June 2014. Credit: Photo: Per Alström

A new species of bird has been described in north-eastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists from Sweden, China, the US, India and Russia, led by Professor Per Alström, Uppsala University and Swedish University of Agricultural Science.

The bird has been named the Himalayan Forest Thrush, Zoothera salimalii. The scientific name honours the great Indian ornithologist Dr Sálim Ali (1896-1987), in recognition of his huge contributions to the development of Indian ornithology and nature conservation.

The Himalayan Forest Thrush was first discovered when it was realised that what was considered a single species, the Plain-backed Thrush Zoothera mollissima, was in fact two different species in north-eastern India.

What first caught the attention of the scientists was the fact that the ‘Plain-backed Thrushes’ in the coniferous and mixed forest had a rather musical song. This was in contrast to individuals found on bare rocky ground above the treeline in the same area, as they had a much harsher, scratchier, more unmusical song.

Studies of museum specimens in several countries revealed consistent differences in plumage and structure between birds that could be assigned to either of these two species. It was confirmed that the species breeding in the forests of the eastern Himalayas had no name.

The Himalayan Forest Thrush Zoothera salimalii, Dulongjiang, Yunnan province, China, June 2014. Credit: Craig Brelsford/

It was suggested that the high-elevation Plain-backed Thrush be called the ‘Alpine Thrush’ instead, while retaining the scientific name of the ‘original’ species, Zoothera mollissima, in accordance with international nomenclatural rules.

Further analyses of plumage, structure, song, DNA and ecology from throughout the range of the ‘Plain-backed Thrush’ revealed that a third species was present in central China. This was already known, but was treated as a subspecies of ‘Plain-backed Thrush’. The scientists called it Sichuan Forest Thrush.

The song of the Sichuan Forest Thrush was found to be even more musical than the song of the Himalayan Forest Thrush.

DNA analyses suggested that these three species have been genetically separated for several million years.

Genetic data from three old museum specimens indicated the presence of yet another unnamed species in China. Future studies are required to confirm this.

The Himalayan Forest Thrush is locally common. It has been overlooked until now because of its close similarity in appearance to the Alpine Thrush.

New bird species are rarely discovered nowadays. In the last 15 years, approximately five new species have been discovered annually on average, mainly in South America. The Himalayan Forest Thrush is only the fourth new bird species described in India since the country achieved its independence (1947).

More information: Paper:

Provided by: Uppsala University

Lower Austria Generates 100% Renewable Energy



Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna April 9, 2013. Many religions have been wary of moving to install renewable energy sources on their places of worship, from cathedrals to mosques – or of taking a strong stand on climate change in general – despite teachings that people should be custodians of nature. But slowly, that may be changing, thanks to new religious leaders including Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

One of Austria’s largest states publicized that it will run on 100 percent generated electricity coming from renewable energy resources. Lower Austria will be producing power coming from hydroelectric mechanisms, wind farms, biomass, and solar panels.

Lower Austria, one of the nine states of Austria, will be generating electricity coming from renewable resources. One of the region’s main power sources will be coming from hydroelectric power plants on the Danube River.



The Danube River is Europe’s second largest river. The river has aided claims of Lower Austria’s 63 percent generated electricity, which comes from hydroelectric resources. The region’s electric production is categorized as hydroelectricity, 26 percent that comes from wind energy, 9 percent from biomass, and 2 percent from solar energy.

“We have invested heavily to boost energy efficiency and to expand renewables,” Erwin Proell said, premier of Lower Austria. “Since 2002 we have invested 2.8 billion euros (US$3 billion) in eco-electricity, from solar parks to renewing (hydroelectric) stations on the Danube.”

This achievement of Lower Austria is an inspiration of hope amidst grim environmental news. This is also an evidence of how much the state has exerted to producing clean energy and diminishing carbon emissions.

As for Austria’s rest, 75 percent will be coming from renewable energy resources and 25 percent will be coming from fossil fuels. On the employment part, the country’s lower region claims to create 38,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector. The country as a whole aims to increase the total number of ‘green jobs’ by 2030 to 50,000.

Austria has been in the lead in the European region when it comes to generating electricity from renewable energy resources. Following behind are Denmark, Latvia, Portugal, and Sweden.

As part of a European clean energy ecosystem, Sweden has announced its aims of becoming the world’s first fossil fuel-free country. On the other hand, Denmark is enjoying its success in generating renewables through wind energy. Elsewhere, Norway is banning cars from its capital city to reduce carbon emissions in half.

Volkswagen just re-released everyone’s favorite hippy-van…but now it’s electric.

With rumors about the return of the surfers craze, the hippie love machine might just be coming back! The Herbie-like purr of the motor coming down the drive will be replaced by an electric engine that can be charged at home. If you live under solar panels, this will be a move in a very green direction.

Since its launch in the early 1950s, the Volkswagen Westfalia Camper has been an enduring classic, an icon of cross-country adventures and the traveling lifestyle. Production ceased in 2003, but speaking to Autocar at the New York Auto Show earlier this year, board member Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser revealed that the company is soon to unveil a concept Camper that would revive the classic van as an electric vehicle.


As of the posting of this article, the below van was for sale in Florida for $4,000

Neusser revealed that the Camper concept design features a small electric motor to power the front wheels, with battery packs stored under the floor. As for its styling, Volkswagen is being careful to retain the Camper’s iconic looks-Neusser explained to Autocar that it will feature three key design cues “First the wide, solid, D-Pillar, second the boxy design of the center section and, thirdly, the front end must have a very short overhang. The distance from the A-pillar to the front end must be very short.”

VW has teased a couple of different, new Campers in recent years-in 2001 they debuted a Microbus concept, and in 2011, the Bulli. Both provide clues as to what the latest concept may look like, and there’s no certainty that an electric Camper will go into production, but Neusser noted, it could make it onto the market if it has an attractive enough cost base.

Is this too good to be true? Is Neusser teasing us with hopes of an unlikely possibility? Well as many an empty dream has been found at the end of a craigslist search for the old classic, and the costs of used parts and chassis continues to rise off the charts! Unfortunately the new electric model of the hippy-classic is still a concept car, and releasing it to the masses depends largely on manufacturing cost. As Outsideonline points out, “the company has a track record of teasing hippy-bus diehards with promises of re-initiating the VW factory lines with updated versions of the classic vehicle, including the 2001 Retro Microbus and 2011 Bulli. Still, it’s worth noting that neither of these versions hold a candle to the original design.” Rob Hoffman of The Plaid Zebra says ” If Volkswagen does revive the old bus from the dead, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it maintains the original aesthetic, rather than slapping the VW logo on a Yaris and trying to make it cool, like the aforementioned 2011 concept.” See what else he had to say…

Sources and credits to The Plaid Zebra, Autocar, Inhabitat

Now watch as this techie drives his custom electric VW bus

Israeli Home Device Turns Trash Into Biogas Fuel

The Western world may have grown accustomed to microwave ovens and electric burners, but the majority of developing populations still cook their food and heat their homes over an open fire. While that may seem like a more “pastoral” and healthy way to live, the World Health Organization reports that up to four million people die from the direct and indirect effects of cooking with solid fuels, like wood, charcoal and coal.

This staggering statistic hadn’t come to the attention of the Israeli inventors of the HomeBioGas system, until the information was pointed out to them by none other than United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. During a visit with Israeli President Reuben Rivlin last year, Ban expressed the global need for a sustainable and safe solution to this dire issue, naming Israel’s HomeBioGas’s bio-digester as a very viable answer.

From trash to treasured cooking oil

HomeBioGas ‘s TevaGas (TG) device is the first family-sized bio-digester made available on the market, which, according to Marketing Director Ami Amir, “is as easy to use as a dish-washer.” For those who don’t know what a bio-digester is, it takes organic material (like left-over food) and converts it into a fuel, known as biogas, through an anaerobic process carried out in a warm atmosphere. This fuel can then be used by a household for other purposes, like heating. According to Amir, this system does not even generate any foul odors.

“The basic underlying principles of bio-digester are, well biological,” Amir explains, “There are bacteria or microbes that thrive in conditions where there is no air (anaerobic) that are able to break down organic matter into their components. One of the results of this process is known as biogas, a combination of methane gas and carbon dioxide.”

SEE ALSO: Israeli Company Brings Light To Third World Countries Drastically improving the standard in bio-digesters

By feeding the remains of their dinner , or any organic trash for that matter, into the bio-digester, users are able to generate clean, renewable biogas to cook three meals a day. In addition, the remaining soluble chemicals left over from the biogas breakdown process (about 10 liters according to the company) can be used as liquid fertilizers for gardens and vegetable crops, a very useful addition for agriculturalists and sustainable farmers.

While it sounds similar to composting, something many of us do already, Amir stresses that HomeBioGas’s system is nothing of the sort. “Composting is feel-good, but it doesn’t provide a lot of real value,” mainly because many people who compost don’t actually treat the organic matter themselves. He adds: “Composting generates methane that is not treated and is therefore much more harmful to the atmosphere.”

The bio-digester itself is no novel innovation; The Israeli inventors of the HomeBioGas system, CEO Oshik Efrati and COO Yair Teller, became familiar with cheaper home bio-digesters, but sought out a way to make them more efficient, and accessible. “People have been developing and building devices similar to ours for about 20-30 years,” Amir states of the history of bio-digester technology. However, the majority of these devices in developing countries like China and India are “very primitive and basic devices that are a pain to install and difficult to operate.”

For environmentally-minded First Worlders too

The HomeBioGas team spent years improving on existing Indian and Chinese bio-digester models, but soon realized that underprivileged populations were in need of an entirely new model. “The intention was to develop the best product that will provide biogas from waste for the under-served populations of Latin America, Africa and Asia,” says Amir. Of course, before releasing their product to the world-at-large, the team wanted to test it out at home, which is why the first functional models of the system were introduced to a Bedouin community in Israel’s Negev Desert. Amir explains: “In these communities, there is little or no means of waste disposal and hardly any connection to utilities.”

Since their launch, HomeBioGas has launched other aid projects in the Palestinian territories, supported by USAID and the Peres Center for Peace, as well as in the Dominican Republic, where rural populations contribute heavily to the problem of deforestation, because of the need for cooking wood. “People from the Dominican Republic told us that each family destroys about ten trees a year and that usually the woman in the family is made to carry up to 6 tons of wood a year,” Amir says.

Since the company serves mainly under-resourced communities, many of its clients don’t have the funds to support the shipment of the product. This means the company needs to rely on hefty subsidies from governments and non-governmental organizations, which can be hard to come by.

SEE ALSO: MobileOCT: The Incredible Social Startup That Uses Mobile Phones To Detect Cancer In Third World Women

Yet due to a surge in awareness of environmental issues, like recycling, composting and homebiogas-ing, the company is even earning some support in developed countries like the United States, Australia and some European countries, who want the system for their own homes. According to Amir, “The need of middle class populations may not be as dire, but some still want a ‘smart can’ that can take their waste and turn it into something useful like cooking gas and fertilizer.”

Currently, the system is sold separately at a price of about $2,500 (NIS 10,000). And while HomeBioGas doesn’t have any direct competitors per say, the cheaper, simpler alternatives available in China and India represent a challenge only due to their drastically lower price.

Ancient Maya used food forest permaculture to feed their population

Classic ancient Maya “collapse” not caused by overpopulation and deforestation, say researchers

The Maya practiced sustainable agriculture that supported dense populations well beyond the Classic period.

For years, archaeologist has been arguing the case that the ancient Maya knew well how to manage their tropical forest environment to their advantage, eventually sustaining large populations even beyond the time when many archaeologists suggest the Maya declined and abandoned their iconic period pyramidal and temple constructions and monumental inscriptions during the 8 th and 9 th centuries CE. She challenges the popular theories long held by many scholars that the Maya declined because of overpopulation and deforestation from increased agricultural production, perhaps aggravated by draught and climate change.

“In the past there was no extensive deforestation,” states Ford.*

At the base of her reasoning stands years of research related to the ancient practice of the Maya in cultivating ‘forest gardens’, a method of sustainable agroforestry that employs an agricultural methodology called the Milpa Cycle- the creation of a polycultivated, tree-dominated, biodiverse landscape by dispersed smallholder farmers, employing natural cycles and maximizing the utility of the native flora and fauna. Having its roots even before the rise of the Maya, it worked by sequencing an area from a closed canopy forest to an open field. When cleared, it was dominated by annual crops that transformed into a managed orchard garden, and then back to a closed canopy forest in a continuous circuit. “Contrary to European agricultural systems developed around the same period, these fields were never abandoned, even when they were forested,” says Ford. “Thus, it was a rotation of annuals with succeeding stages of forest perennials during which all phases received careful human management.”

She explains the process and its implications in detail in her new book, The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands, co-authored with Ronald Nigh, a professor at the Centro Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) in Chiapas, Mexico. The book summarizes years of research evaluating archaeological, paleoenvironmental, agricultural, botanical, ecological and ethnographic and historical data from Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize, including a focus on the large Maya center of .

“Ecological, agricultural, and botanical research on the Maya forest demonstrates that it is in fact a variegated garden dominated by plants of economic value, and thus highly dependent on human interaction,” says Ford. Thus, “the co-creation of the Maya and their forest environment was based on a strategy of resource management that resulted in a landscape called the Maya “forest garden.”

A Maya forest garden. Courtesy BRASS/El Pilar

The Milpa Cycle, from maize field to perennials and back to the forest. Courtesy BRASS/El Pilar

Moreover, Ford points to the Milpa Cycle as being responsible for producing much of the visible fabric of the ancient Maya jungle ‘backdrop’, including the Maya landscape of today-a forest that is in a real sense itself a creation and ‘monument’ of the Maya people. “The Maya forest, once thought to be a wild, pristine jungle, is, in reality, the result of prehistoric, colonial, and recent human activities,” write Ford and Nigh in their book.*


Courtesy Exploring Solutons Past: The Maya Forest Alliance

In other words, by managing and shaping the forest landscape elements through the Milpa Cycle into a human-sculpted environment beneficial in terms of the food, shelter, medicinal and other material needs for sustaining ever-increasing populations, the Maya became the actual creators of their tropical environment-in essence, the architects of the jungle itself. Most significantly, because of its sustainable, renewing techniques, the Milpa Cycle became a key to the longevity of the Maya civilization long after the Classic period ‘collapse’. Ford and Nigh conclude: “When political crises struck Classic Maya society, the population largely retired to the forest garden, leaving elite centers abandoned.”*


The book, The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands, is published by Left Coast Press and can be purchased at the Left Coast Press website .

*Ford, Anabel and Nigh, Ronald, The Maya Forest Garden: Eight Millennia of Sustainable Cultivation of the Tropical Woodlands, Left Coast Press, June 2015.


Read more in-depth articles about archaeology with a premium subscription to Popular Archaeology Magazine .

In addition, the latest is now available.


Popular Archaeology’s annual Discovery Edition eBook is a selection of the best stories published in Popular Archaeology Magazine in past issues, with an emphasis on some of the most significant, groundbreaking, or fascinating discoveries in the fields of archaeology and paleoanthropology and related fields. At least some of the articles have been updated or revised specifically for the Discovery edition. We can confidently say that there is no other single issue of an archaeology-related magazine, paper print or online, that contains as much major feature article content as this one. The latest issue, volume 2, has just been released. Go to the Discovery edition page for more information.

Bliive: Brazilian barter website turns time into money

Maritza Reboucas is working late in her apartment in Sao Paulo’s Jardim Santa Ines neighbourhood.

She is teaching breathing techniques via Skype to someone she met online a few minutes ago.

A sales person during the day, Maritza moonlights as a breathing coach, helping people with health issues such as anxiety and stress.

She has had professional yoga training and could be charging about £30 per session. It would probably not be hard to find customers.

But Maritza is not receiving any Brazilian reais, dollars or pounds. Instead, she is being paid in a virtual currency called Time Money.

Sharing economy

She is one of almost 100,000 users of Bliive – a Brazil-based website that brands itself as the world’s largest online time-exchange platform.

Bliive looks and feels like a social media platform. Its users trade services, including guitar lessons, air conditioner repairs and tarot card readings, without any cash or credit card transactions.

For each hour of service provided, the user receives Time Money, with which they can buy another service.

Maritza earned almost 40 hours’ worth of Bliive services. With that much Time Money, she was able to create her own website about breathing techniques, including her own branding.

“I am told that paying someone to do your own website is not cheap,” she says.

“But I was able to do it all by finding on Bliive others who would help me.”

Each person offers their help in one-hour chunks, and people who have “exchanged” Time Money can rate and review the quality of the service provided.

Top young innovator


Bliive was founded a year and a half ago by Lorrana Scarpioni, 24, a public relations student.

She now employs a team of about a dozen people in Sao Paulo.

She came up with the idea after watching documentaries about the sharing economy and alternative currencies.

If people were willing to engage in couch surfing – letting complete strangers into their houses – surely there was a potential for exchanging something as simple as one hour of a service, she says.

“Bliive is a collaborative network of time exchange,” Lorrana adds.

“We see this platform as a movement that shows people the real value of exchanges and how they can develop themselves this way.”

Tax free

Bliive takes the concept of the sharing economy – popularised by platforms including Uber and Airbnb – a step further.

It creates a new channel between the supply and demand of services, and does away with conventional cash altogether.

More than 90,000 services are on offer on the website, making it larger than other barter-based sites, including, BabySitter Exchange and ChoreSwap.

It is hard to estimate how much Time Money that would be worth, as Bliive’s services vary in nature and value.

But using Maritza’s example – £30 per hour – would imply that it has helped exchange more than £2m worth of services.

All of that has occurred in a legally tax-free manner, as authorities cannot tax the barter economy.

Going corporate

Users such as Maritza have been able to create Time Money for themselves out of thin air. But making money for Bliive’s owners is proving more difficult.

Not all sharing economy start-ups are as lucrative as Uber or Airbnb – worth billions today.

Bliive does not sell advertising, and the service is completely free for regular users.

Most of the start-up’s funds have instead come from investors attracted by its potential.

“If I was an investor in the company today, I wouldn’t be most concerned about the lack of a clear financial model,” said Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.

“At the moment, exchanges are happening and inventory is growing, and we have seen with so many digital platforms that once there is a substantial community and/or assets in the network, there are many ways to extract value.

“LinkedIn is a very good example of this, as they provide a free service to individuals and found a way to charge professionals for a premium service.

“I wouldn’t be worried right now about how to capture value, only how to create and extend it.”

Lorrana is, however, trying to make some money by launching a paid service for corporate clients.

Companies can pay about £3 per month per worker, so that their employees exchange professional or personal services – such as training – via Bliive.

One of the start-up’s first clients is a call centre with 35,000 employees.

“Sometimes companies bring people from outside to teach things like how to speak in public. But you might have a very talented guy sitting just two tables away from you in the same firm,” she explains.

“We can connect the firm with its own talent.”

Unemployed youth

The business also recently opened an office in London, with help from the UK’s Sirius programme for innovative global ideas.

Lorrana sees potential in European markets, where more users are accustomed to the sharing economy – one survey suggests more than 30% of people in Britain have used one such service already.

She also sees opportunities in markets including Greece and Spain, where youth unemployment is high and people lack euros to pay for services.

“The no-money-involved transferences can be a great alternative to keep people developing themselves. We see a lot of people who have graduated with very nice degrees, but they don’t have jobs,” she says.

While Bliive aims to become more profitable, Lorrana is keen to retain its core values.

“We use these talents and values to create a world that is more collaborative and less competitive – more focused on the value of people, not just the value of money,” she says.

199 Things You Can Compost

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of things you can compost, you’re not alone.

We’ve compiled a room-by-room list of more than 200 compostable items. While we understand some of these items are best left to individual preference and might not be right for your compost pile or compost bin.

Still, we hope this list provides you with scavenger-hunt-like fun and help you think creatively about what else you might be able to compost. (In fact, if you think of other things we should add to the list, we hope you’ll tell us about them!)

Note: Keep in mind that you will want to chop up food/plant seeds so they won’t grow in your compost pile and shred large items such as cardboard, pizza boxes, and newspapers.

Without going on too long with an introduction, here’s the list, organized by area of the house.

1. Apple cores

2. Avocado pits

3. Stale coffee beans (ground up for best decomposition)

4. Broccoli stalks

5. Burned toast

6. Cellophane (real cellophone, not plastic!) bags or wrapping

7. Cereal boxes

8. Chopsticks

9. Citrus rinds

10. Coffee filters

11. Coffee grounds

12. Cooked rice

13. Corn cobs (allow extra composting time)

14. Corn husks

16. Crushed egg shells

17. Expired jelly

18. Expired yogurt

19. Fish bones (ground up)

20. Fish skin

22. Food-soiled paper

23. Fruit leaves (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, peach)

24. Grape wastes

26. Liquid from canned goods

27. Loose tea leaves

28. Melted ice cream

29. Moldy bread

30. Moldy cheese

32. Cardboard egg cartons

34. Old herbs

35. Old pasta

36. Olive pits

37. Onion skins

38. Paper cupcake/muffin cups

39. Paper egg cartons

40. Paper grocery bags

41. Paper napkins

42. Paper tablecloths

43. Paper towels and towel rolls

44. Pizza boxes

45. Popcorn kernels

46. Potato peels

47. Pumpkin seeds

49. Sesame seeds

50. Shrimp/lobster/crab shells

51. Soggy salad

53. Soy/rice/almond milk

54. Stale cereal

55. Stale crackers and chips

56. Stale grains

57. Sunflower seeds

58. Tea bags (and string)

60. Used paper plates (non wax coating)

61. Vegetable and fruit peels

62. White paper bakery bags

63. Winter rye

64. Wooden toothpicks

Kid’s Bedroom

65. Aquarium plants

66. Bird cage droppings

67. Brown paper lunch bags

68. Chewing gum

69. Cotton clothes

70. Cotton shirt threads

71. Fish food

72. Flat soda

73. Hamster/rabbit bedding (including soiled)

74. Homework assignments

75. Juice boxes (those not coated with plastic or containing foil)

76. Latex balloons

77. Linen bed sheets

78. Paper mache

80. Pizza crust

81. Stale candy (without wrapper)

82. Stale cookies

83. Stickers

84. Wool socks

85. Brewery wastes

86. Christmas tree

87. Cigar stubs

88. Contents of vacuum cleaner bag

89. Cooled fireplace ash

90. Dust bunnies

91. Natural silk curtains

92. Nut shells (not walnuts)

93. Organic tobacco waste

94. Rotting Halloween pumpkin

95. Wine and beer

96. Wine corks (allow extra composting time)

97. Wrapping paper roll

98. Crepe paper streamers

99. Dead flies

100. Dead houseplants

101. Dried/fresh flowers

102. Hemp baskets

103. Holiday wreaths

104. Outdated seeds

105. Rawhide dog chews

106. Stale catnip

107. Trimmed plant leaves

108. Yarn scraps

109. 100% cotton sanitary napkins (including used)

110. Cardboard cotton swabs

111. Cardboard tampon applicators (including used)

112. Cotton balls (100% cotton)

113. Cotton towels

114. Dryer lint

115. Electric razor trimmings

118. Latex and sheepskin condoms

119. Loofahs (made with organic materials)

120. Old potpourri

121. Price tags

122. Pure soap scraps

123. Tatami mat

124. Toenail clippings

125. Toilet paper roll

126. Urine (not if you are using medication)

127. Used fabric softener sheets

128. Used tissues

129. ATM receipts

130. Catalogs and magazines (not heavily inked)

131. Confetti from a three-hole puncher

132. Envelopes (without plastic window)

133. Leather belt

134. Leather wallet

135. Leather watch band

136. Newspaper

137. Non glossy business cards

138. Non glossy junk mail

139. Paperback books

140. Post-it notes

141. Shredded documents

142. Stale protein/nutrition bars

143. Ticket stubs

144. White glue

145. Acorn shells

183. Worms (make sure composter has no bottom so they can escape if compost is too hot)

184. Burlap sacks

185. Cardboard boxes

186. Dustpan contents

187. Eraser rubbings

188. Latex gloves

189. Matches

190. Natural fiber rags

191. Pencil shavings

192. Power tool manuals

193. Rope and twine (made from natural fibers)

194. Ruined jeans

195. Sawdust (only a little bit at a time)

196. Sea sponges

197. Unpainted sheetrock

198. Used masking tape

199. Wood chips (paintless, not very many)

The Superplant That May Finally Topple the Rubber Monopoly

Eric Mathur is sitting in the backseat of an SUV, rolling south through the Arizona desert. Tall, dark, and bald, he’s dressed for a day under the sun. His linen shirt is open at the top, revealing a thick gold chain around his neck. A cream-colored Panama hat rests on his knee.

As we ride from the outskirts of Phoenix to a farm near Maricopa, about 40 miles away, Mathur explains how he and his company, Yulex, hope to break the Asian rubber monopoly using gene sequencing and an unassuming desert plant. It’s a long story, and about halfway in, as a way of describing this grand plan, he tells me about his parents. His father was Indian, part of a family stretching back more than a hundred generations in South Asia, and his mother was Latvian, with roots just as deep in Eastern Europe. The chain around his neck is a Latvian heirloom, one of the valuables his mother’s family buried outside their home near Riga as Russian troops approached in the opening days of World War II.

His parents met after the war and raised four children. Though his mother, Biruta, is all of 5-foot-3 and his father, Prem, was only slightly taller, Mathur and his two brothers are well over 6 feet, and their sister is 5-10. As Mathur tells it, his family is a living example of ” hybrid vigor.” After centuries of inbreeding in two very different parts of the world, two genetic lines collided, producing traits that weren’t there before. This, he explains, is what he’s trying to do here in the desert, with a plant called guayule.

We drive through an open gate and onto the farm where Yulex is growing guayule-pronounced why-yoo-lee -across more than 250 acres. Row after row stretch from the highway to the hills in the west. Pushing the Panama hat onto his head, Mathur walks me across this desert field, so I can see the plant up close. It’s a ragged scrub with chalky green leaves, the kind of thing you’d dig up and toss away if it sprouted in your back yard. But there’s more to see on the inside.

Bending down, Mathur tears a stem from one shrub and peels back the bark, pointing to a thin layer of, well, softness. This is called parenchyma. You can use it to make rubber, and that means you can make wetsuits, condoms, gloves, catheters, angioplasty balloons, and so many other medical devices. But most importantly, you can make tires. Car tires. Truck tires. Aircraft tires. In fact, this sort of natural rubber is essential to making tires. Yes, we now have synthetic rubber, but that isn’t as strong as the natural stuff. Our automobile tires contain about 50 percent natural rubber, and you simply can’t make a truck or aircraft tire without it.

‘There are many plants that have never had the productivity to make them interesting. But now, there are tools that can take them to the next level’

Today, almost all natural rubber comes from hevea rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia, and that hangs a nightmare scenario over US tire makers and the wider US economy. In the event of war or natural disaster, our supply could vanish, and rather quickly. But guayule can provide an alternative. Since the early 20th century, American researchers, entrepreneurs, and statesmen have eyed the plant as a way of freeing the U.S. economy from this deep dependence on Asia. Rubber trees doesn’t do well in the US, but guayule does. It’s indigenous to Mexico and the American southwest.

The trouble is that the average guayule plant yields relatively small amounts of rubber. Mass production has never quite made sense. But Mathur believes he can change that. At Yulex, he and his colleagues have collected guayule seeds from across the globe, looking for genetic strains as different as, yes, his Indian father and Latvian mother. Now, the team is germinating these seeds, and by closely examining the genetic makeup of the seedlings using DNA sequencers, they’re predicting which strains will produce the best progeny, accelerating the creation of the most vigorous hybrids-hybrids that can yield previously impossible amounts of rubber.

“We’re working with essentially wild plants,” Mathur says, in his rapid-fire way, one word running into the next. “There are many plants that have never had the productivity to make them interesting. But now, because of the genomic revolution, there are tools that can take them to the next level.”

Yulex has spent two years breeding its hybrids in Southern California greenhouses, creating about 1,200 different varieties, and the hybrids here in Arizona are the first grown en masse in an open field. According to Mathur, the best of these can produce one metric ton per acre of guayule planted. These superplants, he claims, are now on par with the rubber tree.

Nature, Domesticated

As the price of gene sequencing technology drops, academics, government researchers, and big corporations alike are using so-called molecular breeding techniques to refine the oldest agricultural crops, combining the latest in biotech with ancient farming methods. By closely examining the DNA of particular plants, they can identify which will produce the best offspring and then immediately cross-breed them. Separate from any effort to actually modify the DNA of fruits and vegetables-the much-discussed GMOs-argi-giant Monsanto is using this method to accelerate the natural breeding of produce like lettuce, peppers, and broccoli. Other Big Ag companies are doing something similar.

Farmers have bred hybrids for centuries, putting two promising plants together and encouraging them to pollenate each other. But such “open pollination” is slow to produce the desired traits. Often, the right plant breeds with the wrong one, and the process moves backward. DNA sequencers provide far more control. Researchers can better understand what’s happening, and sooner. “We’re able to skip the multiple years of testing required by traditional breeding methods,” says Patrick Schnable, an Iowa State University professor who specializes in plant genomics.

‘We’re able to skip the multiple years of testing required by traditional breeding methods.’

But molecular breeding can boost more than just staples. It can produce entirely new crops, crops that didn’t make sense before. Before joining Yulex, Mathur was the chief technologist at SG Biofuels, which transformed a plant called jatropha into a source of jet fuel. Now, he’s applying the same science to guayule. And he’s not alone.

The US Department of Agriculture is working to sequence the guayule genome in full, and multiple companies, including Cooper Tire and a Yulex competitor called PanAridus hope to use this for molecular breeding. In the years to come, these same breeding techniques could help refine a wide range of other plants, producing not only new fuels and new materials, but new sources of food. “The natural world,” Schnable says, “is now ours to domesticate.”

The Rubber Monopoly

In 1875, an Englishman named Henry Wickham smuggled some 70,000 hevea seeds from Brazil to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew outside London. Many rotted on the trip across the Atlantic. But some arrived intact. And some germinated at Kew. From there, Britain shipped hevea across its empire to Ceylon and Malaya and Indonesia, breaking the Brazilian rubber monopoly. In the decades to come, a fast-spreading leaf blight strangled the hevea market in the Amazon. But the tree thrived on the other side of the globe.

The rub: this created a new kind of monopoly. Today, Southeast Asia produces 92 percent of the world’s rubber, according to the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, a consortium that includes China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines, and Vietnam. Ever since the Asian rubber boom, American government and industry have sought ways of mass-producing rubber closer to home. In 1910, a group of entrepreneurs, including John Rockefeller, invested $30 million in guayule. During the Second World War, after the Japanese seized a majority of the hevea plantations in Southeast Asia, Congress passed a bill that spread guayule across 32,000 acres in California and Arizona. And as oil prices surged in 1970s-raising the cost of the synthetic rubber-a new wave of guayule research swept the American tire makers.

As wars ended, oil prices dropped, and other economic pressures subsided, these efforts faded. But the broader need remains. No one can build a decent tire without natural rubber. Synthetic rubber just isn’t strong enough-at the molecular level-to keep the tire together. “You can certainly build a tire from synthetic rubber, but-depending on the kind of tire-it doesn’t run that well,” says Chuck Yurkovich, senior vice president of global technology at Cooper Tire. As such, the US economy is almost wholly dependent on growers in Southeast Asia. These growers have the leverage to set their prices. The leaf blight-or another war-could sever our access to hevea. And in recent years, this multi-faceted problem has grown more acute, as economies in China and India mature at such a rapid rate. They need more rubber for themselves.

‘We know so much less about how to breed guayule. But we’re now going to get all this information about how it works.’

All this is why Colleen McMahan and a team of USDA researchers are working to sequence the guayule genome. “It’s why I have a job,” she says, sitting in the basement of the USDA’s research center in Albany, California, just across the bay from San Francisco.

As part of a $6.9 million government grant, which also funds work at Cooper Tire, PanAridus, Cornell University, and Arizona State University, the USDA hopes to release a fully sequenced genome by year’s end. The aim is to create a complete genetic reference that can help researchers identify the guayule genes that yield specific traits, like the size of the plant, the number of parenchyma cells that circle its trunk and stems, even its shape.

“This is the foundation for molecular breeding,” says Bill Belknap, one of the USDA biotechnologists working to sequence the genome. “We’re providing the information that lets you see where genes are and how you want to move them.”

The potential for improvement is enormous-in part because guayule is so under-bred, in part because breeding technology is evolving so quickly. “The creation of a guayule commodity, which is what we’re all banking on here, is behind the science. That’s almost never the case,” says McMahan. “We knew a whole lot about how great humans evolved before we ever sequenced the genome. We know so much less about how to breed guayule. But we’re now going to get all this information about how it works.”

In about a decade, Belknap believes, the USDA’s work will produce new breeds that can finally push guayule rubber into commercial tires. The tire industry moves slowly, he says. But Eric Mathur believes the changes will come sooner. Much sooner.

The Walking Dead

Mathur has spent the last twenty years trying unlock the hidden powers of organisms you’ve never heard of. In the ’90s, he went to work for a company called Diversa, traveling the world in search of microrganisms that could improve everything from animal care to vegetable oil processing. “We mined natural diversity,” Mathur says. “We would isolate DNA from dirt, from fish guts, from Antartica rocks. We would find genes that behaved in new ways, and then we would blend the best of them.”

Then, in 2006, he joined Synthetic Genomics, a company founded by Craig Venter, one of the first scientists to completely sequence the human genome. There, Mathur focused on transforming microbes, algae, and plants into biofuels-alternatives to oil and gas-using the same tools that drove the human genome project. Later, at SGB, he did much the same with jatropha, a plant previously used to make Portuguese candle wax.

SGB raised jatropha seed yields by as much as 900 percent, eventually signing a deal with BP and others to plant 75,000 acres of the stuff in Brazil. “Their work really showed the potential of molecular breeding technologies, particularly for new crops,” says Iowa State professor Schnable. As the price of oil dropped-making biofuels less attractive-the company faded from view. But its work had caught the eye of Yulex CEO Jeff Martin.

Martin, the former vice president of sales and marketing at a medical device company called Safeskin, co-founded Yulex around the turn of the millennium, hoping to transform guayule into a new source of rubber for the medical industry. Many people are allergic to hevea rubber, and Martin saw guayule as a natural alternative to synthetic latex. But Yulex couldn’t find a wide market for its products-the FDA saddled the company’s guayule gloves with a rather confusing label warning that they could fuel allergies, though that may not have been the case-and outside of some wetsuits, it struggled to push into other products.

So, in 2013, Yulex signed a deal with SG Biofuels to use its gene sequencing techniques, and last year, Mathur joined the company full-time. Yulex has offices in Arizona, not far from the fields where its growing guayule hybrids. But Mathur and his team work out of the old SGB office on the outskirts of San Diego. Yulex has redecorated the walls with photos of guayule.

This is where the team is working to revive its decades-old guayule seeds. The newest seedlings are sprouting in oven-sized “environmental chambers” that tightly control temperature, light, and humidity, each plant swaddled in tiny towelettes to keep them moist. Only about one percent of seeds can be revived. Mathur calls these “The Walking Dead,” comparing them to the hevea seeds Wickham brought to Britain from the Amazon. “These are 30- to 50-year-old collections, and they’ve been through some tough times,” he says, explaining that some of them were kept in freezers that lost power from time to time. “It’s not all that different from the Kew story.”

Genetic Fingerprints

The project began with Mathur and his team collecting as much guayule “germplasm”-living tissue that can produce new plants-from as many disparate sources as possible. Universities. Labs. Private collections. Though many others are working to improve guayule yields, including the USDA, they typically use germplasm from the same area of Mexico, where guayule originated. “Most of the USDA public lines are closely related,” McMahan says. “In the past, collectors looked for big plants and lots of rubber, not genetic diversity.” By finding extremely divergent lines, Mathur says, he and his researchers can help produce the hybrid vigor he sees in his 6-foot-2-inch self.

In all likelihood, Mathur and his tall siblings benefitted from a better diet than his parents, as well as cross-continental breeding. And some question the genetic diversity of the Yulex germplasm. But hybrid vigor, or heterosis, can boost plant yields in big ways. If you inbreed the same line, damaged or recessive genes can show through, says Belknap, of the USDA. But if you cross-breed lines, dominant genes will mask the recessives. “When you mix ’em together-boom!-the damaged genes go away.” Mathur points to rice and corn as examples of crops that have benefited from hybrid breeding in recent decades.

‘When you mix ’em together-boom!-the damaged genes go away.’

Once their seeds are revived, Mathur and his team use DNA sequencing machines to identify particular gene sequences and determine which plants are the most genetically diverse. Those will likely produce the best hybrids. Then, the team cross-breeds these plants at a greenhouse further up the California coast, producing hybrids by the dozens. This end of the process is still charmingly low tech. They put the plants in small tents filled with blue bottle flies and carbon dioxide, and the flies carry the pollen from one plant to another. Mathur calls it “forced caged sex.”

As these plants grow, the team examines the genetic makeup of the most promising hybrids-dubbed Jedi Warriors-and the process starts again. Eventually, they plant the top Jedi across those open fields in Arizona. A particular plant may offer only some of the traits Mathur and his team are looking for, but they can always cross it with yet another.

Once the company has a reference genome from the USDA, Mathur says, the process will accelerate further. With a reference genome, they can better identify which DNA fingerprints correlate with important traits, predicting with even greater accuracy which plants will produce the best hybrids. He believes that, when paired with the USDA’s work, the company’s techniques will impact commercial products by 2019. “By then,” he says, “we expect real economic change.”

The Hybrid Clones

Mathur’s friends and colleagues will tell you he’s an exceedingly positive person, a trait that’s obvious the moment you meet him. But it also means his projections should be viewed with some skepticism. In some ways, changing an industry as old and entrenched as the rubber business-or the oil business-is a quixotic pursuit. So many previous efforts to transform guayule into a viable crop have failed. Yulex has struggled to push guayule rubber into the marketplace for well over a decade. The once promising SGB now sits in limbo.

Changing something as old as the rubber industry-or the oil business-is a quixotic pursuit

“We still have to get to critical mass, where crops are actually grown by farmers and sold,” says Katrina Cornish, a professor in the department of food, agricultural, and biological engineering at Ohio State University who helped advance guayule research at the USDA and worked for a time at Yulex.

Even if you can get guayule to produce enough rubber, you’re still left with the rest of the plant. This isn’t like hevea, which you can tap maple tree-style, extracting its liquid latex without killing the plant. You musty harvest guayule and extract the parychema cells from the bark. But in creating new forms of guayule, Mathur hopes to address these issues, at least in part. He’s producing breeds that will grow in cooler climates. He aims to turn the rest of the plant into biofuel feedstock, so harvesting isn’t as much of a problem. He’s working to reshape the scrub-literally.

As he walks through rows of guayule hybrids in an enormous sloping greenhouse in Encinitas, California, Mathur points out how different the plants look from one another. Some are short and squat, others tall and thin. Some have small trunks, others large. On some, the leaves spread out like fans. On others, they look more like ribbons. It seems as if entirely separate species are growing from row to row.

This is just what happens when you first cross disparate plants. And it doesn’t necessarily indicate extreme genetic diversity. But it shows what Mathur and Yulex aim to do. In reshaping the plant, they can potentially grow more of it per acre. Traditionally, guayule was planted like cotton-in long single-file rows-but Yulex is growing it more like a vegetable, with many plants slotted alongside each other. “You can increase the density of plants,” he says, “not just increase the amount of rubber produced by the plant.”

Once they’ve found the traits they want, they can induce the plant to reproduce without sex-to clone itself

With this small scrub, the possibilities are myriad. And as we walk out of the greenhouse, Mathur points to one more. The added trick, he says, is that once he has a plant he likes, he can clone the thing in perpetuity. And he can clone it without actually modifying the genes.

Guayule exhibits what’s called facultative apomixis. It reproduces in a sexual way some of the time, but not all the time. That’s why Mathur and his team can cross breed plants and produce new traits (sex is required). But it also means that once they’ve found the traits they want, they can induce the plant to reproduce without sex-to clone itself.

Mathur calls this “the real power” of guayule. The plant has behaved this way for centuries. But, now, Mather and his team have the technology they need to harness that power. They recently applied for a patent on this technology, believing it can finally turn guayule into a source of natural American rubber. So many others have failed to do so. But they didn’t have the same tools.

Solar Breakthrough Could Be on the Way for Renters

When President Obama announced a new initiative this week to expand access to solar energy for millions of low- and moderate-income Americans, he took the first step in addressing a major hurdle in the continued expansion of renewable energy: the estimated 50 to 80 percent of households and businesses that can’t install panels because they rent, or live in multi-unit buildings with little roof access.

“These people are a major, untapped part of the market for solar,” said Tim Braun, a spokesman for the Clean Energy Collective, which installs community solar projects. “We can’t achieve the growth in solar that we want without them.”

Business has been booming for the U.S. solar business in recent years. The cost to install panels has dropped 50 percent since 2010; the sector adds jobs an average of 10 times faster than the rest of the economy; and the country’s installed solar capacity grew 34 percent in 2014 alone.

But for all its growth, solar still makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. energy portfolio. That’s at least partly because of high costs and other market forces, and resistance by utilities, which see distributed rooftop solar arrays as a long-term threat to their business model. But it’s also because solar is simply unattainable by the millions of Americans who rent their homes or businesses, or live or operate in buildings with no available roof space for panels, policy and renewable energy experts said.

Solar panels cost an average $23,000 for a 5-kilowatt system, which would cover approximately half of the average American household’s monthly electricity demand; once installed, they are hard to move. The Obama administration’s strategy would funnel $520 million from foundations, governments and social impact investors to building so-called community or shared solar farms, where renters can buy shares or memberships into the projects. The energy the farms produce is then sold to local utilities, and members get reduced electricity bills every month.

The new initiative also pledges to install 300 megawatts of renewable energy in federally subsidized housing by 2020-triple the previous pledge-and employ AmeriCorps, the federal government’s service program, to install solar capacity and hire solar workers in low-income communities.

Most renters have never heard of shared solar projects, which started gaining traction only in the past five years, and many of those who have see it as too complicated to join, said Dan Utech, deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change. The Obama administration’s latest initiative will help “break down those barriers,” he said.

Braun of CEC called the White House’s initiative a “major gamechanger” for the community solar industry.

Despite laws in 12 states and the District of Columbia allowing community solar projects, only a few dozen shared farms have been built across the country. All told, community solar currently accounts for a tiny fraction of an already tiny solar market, said Sean Garren, northeast regional manager for the environmental advocacy group VoteSolar.

“More people are slowly coming to understand how [community solar] works,” said Garren. “Almost everywhere across the country where projects have been built, they have a waiting list for signing up. The interest is there.” The projects just need more support and more advertising, he said.

The obstacle between renting a home and access to solar will only get worse if officials don’t address it now, experts said. Home ownership has been falling since the recession, reaching a 20-year low of 64.5 percent in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, cities are growing at a faster rate than suburban areas, meaning more people living in multi-unit buildings with little access to their roofs. The number of people living in cities grew by 2.3 million between 2012 and 2013-a trend that many population projections predict will continue in the coming decades.

Despite federal and state tax credits, there is very little incentive in today’s rental market for landlords to invest in installing solar on their buildings. With so many people moving to cities, demand for apartments is high and the majority of building owners-minus those catering to high-income renters-don’t see environmentally-friendly upgrades as necessary for getting tenants in the door.

According to an April report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “shared solar presents an area of tremendous potential growth for solar photovoltaics.” Community solar could account for 32 to 49 percent of all distributed solar on the market by 2020, the authors found.

Colorado is generally seen as the first major success story for community solar projects. Seventy-five percent of ratepayers in the state have the ability to buy into a shared program. Denver alone has six community solar farms.

“We need a variety of approaches” to make solar a significant part of our country’s energy mix, Utech said. “Utilities are increasingly building up solar, but many are not. We believe there is demand out there to do it this way as well.”

For more info on the Pros, Cons and Hidden Costs of Solar Energy check out’s article here.

Ontario homeowners to reap solar benefits in 5 years, association says

Within five years Ontario homeowners could save enough money by putting solar panels on their roofs that they won’t need any subsidy to make installation worthwhile.

That’s the conclusion of a new analysis from the Canadian Solar Industries Association being released Thursday, which says the plunging costs of solar equipment, combined with rising overall electricity costs, will put the two in balance by 2020.

Currently, many Ontario homeowners are installing solar panels, but the incentive is a provincial program that pays them high rates for the electricity they generate – considerably above market prices.

The CanSIA analysis essentially says that within five years, without any kind of subsidy, homeowners will save enough money by generating their own power to pay for the solar equipment over its lifespan.

“There has been a 50-per-cent drop in the price of residential solar already,” said CanSIA president John Gorman. “We’re going to see continued drops over the coming years, and that means not only diminishing subsidies, but an actual payback starting in five years time.”

The analysis is based on a 3 kilowatt solar system costing about $7,800 in 2020, with a 25-year lifespan. It models electricity rates rising at about 2 per cent per year, and installation costs for home solar panels falling by about 26 per cent between now and 2020.

Mr. Gorman said that by 2025 it will be economic for homeowners to also shell out for a battery system to store solar power, essentially allowing them to tap into their solar panels to supply their electricity around the clock.

There has been criticism that the current subsidies for renewable power – including commercial scale solar and wind farms – have been driving up the overall cost of electricity in Ontario, thereby hurting both homeowners and businesses. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a survey on Wednesday that suggested as many as 5 per cent of businesses in the province say they might have to shut down in the next five years because of high electricity prices.

Mr. Gorman said the subsidies to solar power generators, and other renewable power companies, contribute only a very small part of higher power prices.

“The rate increase has been the result of investments that are made in all parts of the system – transmission lines and other things that desperately needed to be done to modernize our antiquated system,” he said. These investments will make the electricity system cheaper over the long run because they will “produce and monitor electricity better,” he added. Mr. Gorman also noted that most power systems in North America are seeing the same kinds of price boosts.

CanSIA’s director of policy and regulatory affairs Ben Weir said the price analysis would also apply to other provinces, if the capital costs for a solar system were roughly the same at in Ontario, and electricity prices at or above those in Ontario.

IKEA to install electric car-charging stations at all Canadian stores

​Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA says it will have free electric car-charging stations at all 12 of its stores in Canada by the end of this summer.

IKEA announced at the Climate Summit of the Americas just outside Toronto on Thursday that it will install 60-amp charging stations at all of its Canadian stores by the end of August.

“Charging will be provided to customers at no cost, on a first come first serve basis,” the chain said.

Every location will get two chargers per store to start with.

The infrastructure will be installed by Canadian energy firm Sun Country Highway, which says the type of charger it will be installing is compatible with every electric vehicle currently for sale in Canada and is strong enough to recharge approximately 80 per cent of an electric car battery in under three hours.

IKEA says it is an ideal retailer for the initiative because its stores tend to be located next to major highways, so they can help fight “range anxiety” among electric car drivers worried about running out of juice on a long trip.

The decision is part of the chain’s overall move toward sustainability. Last year, IKEA achieved 100 per cent renewable energy use in all of its stores through investments in things like a 46 megawatt wind farm in Alberta, almost 4,000 solar panels on the roofs of three Ontario stores, and a geothermal installation in Manitoba that is the province’s largest.

“Electric vehicle charging stations are an important step on IKEA Canada’s continuing journey towards sustainability,” the company’s sustainability manager Brendan Seale said.

Canadians make 25 million visits a year to the retail chain’s 12 stores across the country, Ikea said.

Pope Francis warns against “new forms of colonialism”

Pope Francis once against spoke to a gathering of representatives of worldwide popular movements. He last met with them in Rome this past October, when they discussed social problems like unemployment and a lack of housing and land.

On this occasion, the Pope came to them. He delivered the most powerful and wide-ranging speech of his trip.

“Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.”

He denounced “new forms of colonialism” that leave entire groups of people as nothing but suppliers, impeding their ability to grow and develop.

“The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”

The Pope said that new and old forms of colonialism must be abandoned.

He did not overlook “offenses” committed by the Church during his condemnation of colonialism. The Pope apologized for crimes committed against local populations during the conquest of America.

“I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

At the same time, Pope Francis said that it would be unfair to ignore the Christians who also left behind “works of human promotion and love” among Native populations. He also highlighted Latin America’s profound Christian identity.

The Pope mentioned that these things have happened in other parts of the world, as well. Even today, Christians are persecuted.

“This too needs to be denounced: in this third world war, waged peacemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

Pope Francis asked for the crowd to pray for him, but not everyone in attendance was Catholic. So he made a special request for those who do not believe.

…Think about me and send good vibes. Thank you.

What No One Is Talking About When They Talk About Greece

“You all have CSAs in the States, right? That’s amazing.”

I wasn’t entirely sure I fully understood what he was getting at. It was spring, 2012, and we were standing around at a squatted anarchist social center in a southern suburb of Athens, where I’d just given a talk on anarchism and Occupy Wall Street.

A few days earlier, in Syntagma Square opposite the Greek parliament building, a local retired man had shot himself in the middle of morning traffic. The note he left detailed his refusal to be a burden on his children as Greece’s economy spiraled, and called for young people to string up those responsible for its collapse. It made for a downright chilling read, even in translation.

“You mean, like…people buying shares in local farms?”

Back home in the U.S., Greek anarchists were celebrated for their perceived tenacity and bravado. Like giddy adolescents sharing pornography, left social media circulated YouTube clips of low-scale street warfare. (These days, the shared content is more likely to be various expressions of global panic over Greece’s potential exit from the euro.) It seemed unlikely that my companion wanted to talk to me about community-supported agriculture, the veggies-in-a-box default practice of the boring, NPR-member mainstream liberal. And yet, he did.

This was before the ascendancy of Syriza, and before Syriza’s prospects for negotiating some economic relief disappeared. A default on IMF debt repayments now seems inevitable, and an exit from the Euro seems more likely by the day. Much faith has been put in Syriza as a sort of leftist foil to late European austerity-not just in Greece, but throughout the world-and Syriza’s ambitions would have been crushed rather swiftly, were the party not willing to play the country’s exit from the continental currency (and the ripple effect that would have for financial markets the world over) like a poker chip.…

While liberal and left-wing Americans stare distastefully and apprehensively at their pitiful… Read more Read more

All of this, of course, after months of domestic expectation-management from Syriza’s camp, paired with frequent slander of the very social movements on whose rhetoric the party rode to electoral victories-victories whose ends prove increasingly elusive.

But in Athens, right now, the saga appears to have resulted in a certain fatigue on the ground. Life goes on, looking much as it would’ve otherwise, beyond the occasional, small line at an ATM-or the dueling yes/no referendum rallies in Syntagma, both ends of that contrast as likely a response to relentless humiliation as they are anything else.

Monday night, as the “no” gathering in Syntagma swelled, residents in the Agia Pereskevi neighborhood gathered to discuss a scheduled day of events for this coming Sunday; events mostly for local children. These activities would coincide (however unintentionally) with the proposed referendum on the EU’s austerity proposal, and it seemed intuitive that a change of plans might be in order.

I casually browsed Twitter on my phone, watching the world collectively soil its pants over Greece’s situation, while a friend whispered translations of the discussion over my shoulder. At one point, one woman put a point to what was both the overriding sentiment, and a question well worth asking, given what’s unfolded in Greece for the better part of a decade, now: “Who gives a fuck about the referendum?”

In the wake of the 2008 uprising that swept the country following both the police shooting of a teenager in the central neighborhood of Exarchia and Greece’s economic free-fall, horizontal, community self-management became both a practice and a demand. Popular assemblies-like the one in Aghia Pereskevi-formed in roughly seventy neighborhoods throughout metropolitan Athens, some within occupied government buildings.

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported on how these structures are serving to “fill the gaps left by austerity.” A variety of what would’ve been called survival programs in the era of the Black Panther Party have been carried out through such assemblies across Athens: food and clothing distribution, supplementary education programs for children, basic health services, mental health support, eviction defense – all administered via face-to-face, direct democracy.

When a tax increase folded into electricity bills resulted in cutoffs for people unable to pay, lists were made and local electricians were dispatched to illegally restore services, with priority afforded to those most vulnerable (the elderly, new parents). A former military installation seized by residents and converted into a community park and cultural center boasted sizeable gardens, tended by locals of varying ages.

When I visited one of the city’s oldest popular assemblies in 2012, in the neighborhood of Petralona, residents had just opened a kitchen space on one street corner, with the intention of both providing affordable meals and educating young people about food cultivation, preparation, and health. Participation in all of it seemed pretty eclectic, to my outsider eye. Even local government officials joined in-acting as residents like any others, sometimes with their families in tow. Perhaps even more telling, assemblies were sharing resources between neighborhoods. They were confederating, demonstrating both an ability and an intention to scale up.

Taking all of this in, my anarchist acquaintance’s interest in community-supported agriculture that night in 2012 started to make sense. It makes even mores sense now. With the IMF and Troika twisting arms, threatening empty store shelves if its various austerity programs aren’t adopted, direct relations with local agricultural production offer a keenly radical possibility.

Channeling that possibility, a ten person collective opened a grocery and coffee bar on the edge of the central Athens neighborhood of Exarchia.

“There was a time when people didn’t have much of a relationship with the villages their families were from – specifically the land their families cultivated” a woman working in the collective explained to me (she asked to keep her name out of this piece; police and fascists are real threats in Greece). “With the crisis, you started seeing people opt to plant on land in their villages. [The grocery store] was a way of consolidating and making available what we were producing.”

Financed by a loan from a network of worker self-managed businesses scattered throughout Exarchia (mostly cafes and restaurants), the project-organized democratically, on the same consensus model that drove the Occupy movement in the US-served a threefold purpose.

“The first objective was to support ourselves; those of us whose families were producing food items in their villages, as families, not using employees” the woman told me. Basic needs. Tomatoes. Flour. Olive oil.

“The second was to support people politically close to us, to create a workplace that could serve as a safety net and provide transitional work for people who’d lost jobs.” One such woman made my espresso freddo Monday morning. A graphic designer by trade, she’d been fired her first day back from the eight months of maternity leave to which Greeks are entitled-a warning to any other staff entertaining such audacity.

“The third was to provide food produced in ways consistent with our principles.” In the last decade, organic products saw something of a boom in Greece. “The primary focus was health, meanwhile these things were being produced by Pakastani immigrants with no job security, under horrible conditions. Some were killed. Our position was that a ‘healthy’ carrot produced in this way has no meaning, at all.”

The café represents an attempt to forge networked relationships-real sustenance-unfettered by faith in conventional politics, that gives instance to an altogether distinct vision for Greece. As a founding member of the Agia Pereskevi assembly told me over coffee this week, “This is what sets us apart from the traditional left – there is no doing for; we are the people whose lives are affected. And we’re taking on transformations that affect our lives.”

While these sometimes small projects, and much of what Greek popular assemblies have carried out could be viewed as triage out-scaled by the gaps left by austerity demands, that’s never been the view of participants I’ve spoken with. With real consistency, they’ve seen themselves engaged in something prefigurative; forging new ways of organizing social life – life that will continue with or without the euro. And they’ve done so with considerable ingenuity, commitment, and (most importantly) success.

Finding myself back in Athens as the world’s gaze is cast back in its direction, with the clock ticking on the future of high politics in Greece and its relationship with the rest of the world, it seems fitting to counter the pummeling global humiliation to which Greeks are being subjected with some of what’s been done right in Greece since the crisis (none of it by anyone whose name you’ve heard). Because if we’re being even remotely honest, what titillates us most about this unfolding drama is not the great uncertainty that hovers over Greece, but that it invites us to look into our own future.

Editor’s note: Due to concerns about violent retaliation, we edited this piece after publication to remove proper names of venues and cut or crop photographs that clearly identified people. Joshua Stephens is a writer in an open relationship with Brooklyn, NY. His work has appeared in AlterNet, Truthout, Waging Nonviolence, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He is the author of The Dog Walker: An Anarchist’s Encounters with the Good, the Bad, and the Canine, forthcoming from Melville House.

Forget Facebook, Abandon Instagram, Move To A Village

In the parts of the world that we cover in our blog, many people live in villages.

Villages have their problems, to be sure. There may not be a doctor or clinic nearby. Girls may not be able to go to school. Clean water might be a long walk away.

But a new book points out that village life has its advantages.

We asked psychologist Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarter, to explain the benefits of living in a community of about 150 people, the average population of traditional villages throughout history around the world.

What is the village effect?

The village effect is a metaphor for the social contacts we all need as humans in order to thrive. These are the strong social ties that develop naturally in a village, where by necessity you cross paths with each other repeatedly every day. When you think of most villages, there is a central square, a public area where everyone converges or passes by going to the grocer or the post office or city hall or to sit at a cafe. And that is something we have less and less of today in our era of online connections. Commerce is moving online, everything is moving online, and these traditional village spaces are disappearing.

Why is 150 the ideal number for a village population?

One-hundred-fifty is the number that comes up time and again in the types of social interactions that work smoothly. We see it throughout history – whether we’re talking about the number of people in traditional hunter-gatherer societies, Neolithic villages, an English country village or the number of Christmas cards we send out. These are people with whom you have strong enough ties that you could ask to borrow $10 until the next payday.

How do these 150 “village” ties compare to online ties?

Not all types of social ties are created equal. Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar posits 150 as the maximum number of meaningful relationships that the human brain can manage. We know from our own lives there are only so many people that you can invest in that way, that you can call and invite to dinner or check in on when sick.

These are the types of social ties that develop naturally in a village, where by necessity you cross paths with each other repeatedly every day. When you think of most villages, there is a central square, a public area where everyone converges or passes by going to the grocer or the post office or city hall or sit at a cafe. And so these ties develop naturally through frequent in-person contact.

These are different from the weak contacts that you might have in your online social networks. You could walk by some of these online contacts on the street without even recognizing them. These weak contacts are great if you need a recommendation for a restaurant in a strange city, for instance, or [are] looking for a cleaning lady or other types of information. But in terms of social ties, it’s the difference between your mother’s lasagna or homemade chicken soup compared with fast food.

Why is the village effect so important?

If you have a cohesive community, you will have extra helping hands for the young and the old and everybody in between. The village effect impacts not only those who are vulnerable but it helps people feel they belong somewhere.

And if we know anything from all of the demographic studies in neurosciences, if you are lonely or isolated, it is almost a death sentence.

When you are getting together face to face, there are a lot of biological phenomena: Oxytocin and neurotransmitters get released, they reduce stress and allow us to trust others. Physical contact unleashes a whole chain of events that make us and make the other person feel good, and affects our health and well-being.

By contrast, according to research, we’ve never been lonelier as a society than we are now, and this can take a toll on our health.

Those of us who don’t live in villages – are we out of luck?

You can create your own village effect. Get out of your car to talk to your neighbors. Talk in person to your colleagues instead of shooting them emails. Build in face-to-face contact with friends the way you would exercise. Look for schools where the emphasis is on teacher-student interaction, not on high-tech bells and whistles.

We need to recognize that digital connections should enhance but never replace the real-life connections. I don’t think we all should throw out digital devices and move back to the village. I’m not romanticizing village life but using it as a metaphor as what is disappearing: deep social ties and the in-person contact we all need to survive.

World’s First Solar Road Already Generating More Power than Expected – NationofChange

A new solar bike path in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which functions as a massive solar array, is already generating more power than expected. And guess what the SolaRoad is helping to generate-the electricity grid. Brilliant!

SolaRoad, the world’s first “solar road,” has only been in operation since November, but it’s already generating more power than expected. SolaRoad is a bike path in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, that also functions as a massive solar array. The project was developed by TNO, the Province of Noord-Holland, Ooms Civiel and Imtech.

“We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly,” said Sten de Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad. “The bike road opened half a year ago and already generated over 3,000 kWh. This can provide a single-person household with electricity for a year, or power an electric scooter to drive 2.5 times around the world.”

The pilot period will run for another two and half years to see how well the panels hold up and how much electricity they generate. Since opening six months ago, more than 150,000 bicyclists have used the road. At the end of December and in early spring of this year, a small section of the panels needed repair, but otherwise the panels are holding up very well, according to the project developers. The solar cells are protected by a thin layer of transparent, skid-resistant tempered glass that is able to support bicycles and vehicles.

Where does this electricity go you ask? “The solar electricity from the road is fed into the electricity grid and can be used, for example, for street lighting, traffic systems, households and (eventually) electric cars that drive over it,” the project developers said.

The road is only 70 meters, or about 230 feet, so imagine the potential of this technology if adopted on a wider scale. We featured a similar Idaho-based project, Solar Roadways, whose Indiegogo campaign became extremely successful when their video went viral last year.

The project does have its detractors though. ZME Science points out the three-year project costs 3.5 million euros and the solar panels could need regular repair from winter weather and normal wear and tear. ZME Science said, “Maybe we should first cover every available inch on our rooftops first.”

Watch the video from SolaRoad to see how it could be the road of the future: