August 7, 2014

You know what they say about too much of a good thing.     Photo: Sodapix/Thinkstock

Turn Your Leftovers Into Cash

PareUp app is designed to reduce food waste

America wastes a lot of food. Between 30 and 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply ($165 billion worth) ends up in a landfill each year. The USDA's Food Waste Challenge initiative was implemented in June 2013 to cut down on our leftovers; more than a year later, the numbers haven’t dropped significantly. But now there is an app for that—and a new initiative from Massachusetts.

PareUp is an app that aims to stop food waste by connecting users with restaurants and grocers that have excess product, which users can purchase before it is thrown out. "We want to change the cultural conversation around what it means to consume food and the life cycle of food," co-founder Margaret Tung told NPR. "Because we’re throwing out a lot more than needs to be."

PareUp allows businesses to advertise their surplus fare with discounted prices and time of sale; food that can't be donated due to regulations or unmet weight requirements ideally will still be consumed. You'll be able to snag a half-price loaf of artisanal bread, a pound of grass-fed fatback bacon, or a poached pear salad from your favorite cafe with a tap of your touchscreen. The free app's online marketplace is launching in New York City in August, and the app will be available on the iTunes App Store in September. The developers hope to expand to other cities soon.

PareUp has turned up just in time. The state of Massachusetts' commercial food waste disposal ban takes effect October 1. The ban requires any establishment that disposes of a ton or more of organic material per week to repurpose or donate usable food. Unusable excess will be coverted to clean energy or sent to animal-feed operations.

"[Food is] a material that we've historically wasted," David Cash, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, told NPR. "And now we're putting in place the rules and regulations that should allow this resource to be utilized in lots of different kinds of ways."

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Look out below!     Photo: Sam Beebe/Flickr

Drone Crashes into Yellowstone Spring

UAS in hot water

In June, the National Park Service banned the use of drones in all national parks, following an initial ban in Yosemite. Despite such restrictions, there are still those who cannot resist the urge to send their unmanned aircraft into national park airspace, whether to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the kind of natural beauty that haunts their dreams—or just to be a jerk.

Decide for yourself which category fits the visitor to Yellowstone National Park who crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring last Saturday. Hot spring buffs will know that the Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world.

Park spokesperson Al Nash addressed concerns that the downed aircraft, which sank into the 370-foot-wide and 121-foot-deep "boiling lake," could potentially damage the famous natural landmark.

"What we have to determine is whether the presence of this radio-controlled recreational aircraft poses a threat to that unique resource," Nash said.

"We are trying to determine if we can locate it, and if we locate it, if we'll be able to remove it. Our concern is about any potential impacts to the iconic Yellowstone thermal feature."

The tourist who crashed his drone allegedly approached a park employee about the possibility of getting his aircraft back. The man was let go without a citation, and the park employee initially didn't report the incident.

"I don't think the [park employee] who they spoke with realized that drones couldn't be flown in the park or the implications of what they were being told," Amy Bartlett, spokesperson for Yellowstone National Park, told CNN.

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Researchers at the Halley Research Station say that record low temperatures on Sunday, reaching minus-67 degrees Fahrenheit, followed the power outage.     Photo: Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr

Surviving 19 Hours Without Power in Antarctica

Research station loses heat in the dead of winter

A temperature of 67 degrees Fahrenheit sounds great right about now, but 13 people at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica were dealing with a temperature of negative 67 degrees, without any power all day on July 30. Although they've regained some power and heat after the "major technical issue" that shut everything down, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) said in a statement yesterday that "the staff are having to live and work in extremely difficult conditions." In fact, they're making preparations to evacuate to secondary buildings in case it happens again.

Usually, researchers there are busy studying weather and pollution in relation to the upper atmosphere, but all science at the station has stopped. BAS spokesperson Linda Capper told Mashable that although power isn't running at full capacity, all residents of Halley Station are in good health, including the doctor on staff. 

Because this happened in the dead of the Antarctic winter, with temperatures nearing what researchers think are record lows, evacuating the staff just isn't possible for at least a few months. Still, the staff expressed good spirits while everyone works to get things in order. 

As Capper said, "It's looking good, but it's still quite early days." Let's hope things keep warming up at the station. If you want to follow how the team is doing firsthand, an engineer (@AntAntarctic) and doctor (@AntarcticDoc) working at the station have been tweeting out their experiences (and some cricket news—hopefully a sign that things aren't too dire).

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Almonds require a lot of water to produce, but successful health narratives and bad PR for other proteins mean these nuts reign supreme.     Photo: Qpicimages/ThinkStock

America Has a New Favorite Food

Demand for almonds up 220% since 2005

America is officially more nuts for almonds than peanuts. A Washington Post inquiry into American nut-purchasing habits found that demand for the high-protein snack food increased by more than 220 percent since 2005, far outpacing demand for any other type of nut, including peanuts (technically a legume).

Peanut consumption has been steady during the past four decades; annual consumption fluctuates between 1.5 and two pounds per person, with current consumption at the low end of that range. Almonds, however, are being consumed at a rate of two pounds per person per year—significantly higher than the mere quarter-pound the average American consumed in the 1970s.

The almond boom didn't come out of left field. It parallels a trend of successfully marketed health narratives and accompanying changes in dietary preferences. For instance, whereas conscious eaters once shunned nuts for their high fat content, now we know that fat—especially fat found in nuts such as almonds—is essential to a healthy diet.

The nut has been associated with longevity, heart health, and even weight management, and almond growers aren't doing a thing to reverse the reputation. It doesn't hurt that 91 percent of Americans now report that they snack every day, and almonds are easy to eat on the run.

The nut itself isn't the only almond product dominating grocery shelves. Though we still buy more peanut butter than almond butter, and almond milk makes up about 5 percent of milk sales, the booming gluten- and dairy-free trends could change that. Almond flour, anyone?

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