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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Every year, over one million Magellanic penguins descend upon a beach in Argentina to mate. 

    Story by Tony Manfred and editing by Benjamin Nigh. 

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    Volkswagen VWSince being accused of installing software in its cars that made them seem less polluting than they actually were on Friday, Volkswagen is having a rough go of it: The EPA says half a million of its cars violate the law, its stock prices are plummeting, and angry customers are suing.

    But what does all of this mean for the environment?

    Judging by VW’s own recent admission, we’re looking at 11 million cars on the road that have the cheating equipment installed.

    In the US, affected VW vehicles are putting out up to 40 times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) as they’re supposed to, according to the EPA. While that's likely a pretty high estimate, it's still a very big deal. 

    For one thing, NOx is a nasty pollutant that, in addition to occasionally contributing to a warmer planet, can exacerbate dozens of health conditions, from asthma and bronchitis to emphysema.

    Beyond pollution 

    But the actual pollution created as a result of VW's swindle may be just the tip of the iceberg.

    The EPA has created rules and regulations around car emissions designed to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants our vehicles put out. Unfortunately for car makers, these rules often affect the car's gas mileage and how it performs on the road. In the case of most "clean" diesel engines, you're essentially trading environmental friendliness for a more thrilling ride.

    And as Travis Bradford, the Director of the Energy and Environment Concentration at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, told Business Insider, the EPA has decided this tradeoff is critical, not just for our own health and safety, but for the health of the planet.

    Oftentimes, however, the controls come with a catch: They can be turned on and off. In VW's case, they fudged the equipment so that it would turn on only when it was being tested — and turn off the rest of the time.

    The result? The cars were more fun to drive, and worse for the environment. Which is the exact opposite of the tradeoff the EPA has outlined.

    "This is tantamount to theft of public property. You've established rules under which you have to operate and you have willfully circumvented those rules," Bradford told Business Insider. "This is company-killing kind of stuff."

    How diesel went green

    For years, people stopped buying diesel-powered cars, which had been all the rage in Europe thanks to their fuel economy. They were too dirty, at least environmentally speaking,

    Compared with plain old gas vehicles, they put out far more gag-inducing pollutants, as anyone who’s ever driven behind a dusty old 18-wheeler should know.

    But the VW cars at the center of the controversy are equipped with special technology — technology that’s since been implemented in dozens of other small diesel vehicles— that can supposedly slash how much NOx its diesel-powered vehicles put out. 

    In larger vehicles like trucks, that technology works by treating the car’s exhaust with a solution of a chemical called urea. When the urea reacts with water and the pollutants in the car’s tailpipe, it converts them into two less-harmful compounds — mainly nitrogen and water.

    In smaller vehicles, however, it's historically been much tougher to come up with the technology that accomplishes these goals. So when VW introduced it, it was huge news for carmakers.

    The new technology enabled a bit of a renaissance for diesel vehicles: Wealthy but environmentally-conscious drivers started buying Audis, Mercedes, and VWs with the engines, which promised to provide a more fun, powerful drive while delivering better mileage and less toxic emissions.

    But VW’s admission threatens to put all of that on hold.

    In the US, the portion of diesel-powered cars that make up VW’s market is small. Only about a quarter of the vehicles that VW sells here have diesel engines. But in Europe, it’s far bigger. Roughly half of all passenger vehicles sold there are diesel, and VW sells a pretty big chunk of them.

    VW did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We tried jackfruit — the huge tree fruit that supposedly tastes like pulled pork

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    leonardo dicaprio

    Leonardo DiCaprio and over 2,000 individuals and 400 institutions are now committed to pulling their money from fossil fuel companies, together representing a remarkable $2.6 trillion of investments, it was revealed on Tuesday.

    A new analysis shows the value of the funds committed to selling off their investments in coal, oil and gas companies has rocketed in the last year, rising fifty-fold.

    Major pension funds and insurance companies have joined the universities and churches that founded the divestment movement, all of whom fear the impact of climate change on both the world and the value of their investment portfolios.

    Among the biggest divesters are the world 's biggest sovereign wealth fund, held by Norway, and two of the world 's biggest pension funds, in California. The campaign, now active in 43 countries, was backed on Tuesday by the UN 's climate chief, who will lead negotiations for a global climate deal at a crunch summit in Paris in December.

    Christiana Figueres called for the shift of investment from fossil fuels to meet the $1 trillion-a-year need for clean investment and to create momentum ahead of Paris. "Investing at scale in clean, efficient power offers one of the clearest, no regret choices ever presented to human progress, " she said at the launch of the report in New York.

    DiCaprio, who on Tuesday revealed the divestment of his personal wealth and his charitable foundation 's funds, said:

    "Climate change is severely impacting the health of our planet and all of its inhabitants, and we must transition to a clean energy economy that does not rely on fossil fuels. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part in Paris. "

    Bill McKibben, of the climate campaign that started the divestment movement, said: "In the hottest year we 've ever measured on our planet, big institutions and organisations are finally stepping up to say: we won 't participate in this charade, and we will stand up to the fossil fuel companies that are causing it. A 50-fold increase is a sign that civil society is finally fully on the move in the battle against climate change. "

    Connie Hedegaard, former EU commissioner for climate action, said that divestment from fossil fuels not only helped tackle climate change but was also "sound economics. " She said the KR Foundation which she now chairs would divest it own funds, to "put our money where our mouth is. "

    Scientists agree that most existing coal, oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below the internationally-agreed danger limit of 2C. This means that, if action on climate change is successful, the vast majority of fossil fuels will be unburnable and that the companies owning those reserves could crash in value. Many coal companies have already seen their share prices crash as limits on carbon emissions get stricter.

    The World Bank along with analysts at Citigroup, HSBC, Mercer and the Carbon Tracker Initiative have all warned of the financial risk climate action poses to fossil fuel investments. The The Bank of England and G20 are examining the risk this poses to the global economy.

    The fossil fuel divestment movement, aimed primarily at stripping legitimacy from fossil fuel companies, has grown faster than even the divestment movement that targeted apartheid South Africa and it is backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    The new report, by Arabella Advisors, shows that the number of institutions committed to fossil fuel divestment has soared from 181 in September 2014 to 436 today. These institutions, which include local government, health and education bodies, represent more than 646 million individuals around the world.

    Pension funds and private companies now represent 95% of the assets committed to divestment, but university commitments have also risen rapidly, tripling in the last year, with notable announcements coming from the universities of California, Oxford and Syracuse.

    The Guardian, whose parent group has committed to divest its £800m fund, launched a campaign in March calling on the world 's biggest medical charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates ' Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest from fossil fuels. It is estimated that the Wellcome Trust has lost £175m on its fossil fuel investments in the last year.

    This article originally appeared on

    This article was written by Emma Howard and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

    NEXT UP: Shocking before-and-after photos of California's mountains make what's happening to the planet obvious

    NOW READ: The top 10 foods with the biggest environmental footprint

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    NOW WATCH: Animated map of what Earth would look like if all the ice melted

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    Hillary ClintonFor months, the political press has asked Hillary Clinton about her position on the Keystone XL Pipeline to no avail.

    On Tuesday, the Democratic presidential front-runner finally gave her answer ... to a 19-year-old college student.

    Clio Cullison, a student at Drake University in Iowa, stood up during a Clinton event Tuesday and asked her point-blank, whether she supported the construction of the pipeline.

    Clinton had telegraphed that she might take a firm position soon. She decided to make that day Tuesday, saying she opposed the pipeline's construction.

    "I've got a responsibility to you and voters who ask me about this," Clinton said. "I think its imperative that we look at the Keystone Pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change. And unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward with all the other issues.

    "Therefore, I oppose it."

    The opposition to the pipeline has become a litmus test for environmentalists.

    The proposed pipeline has been under review at the US State Department since Clinton's tenure as US secretary of state. It would bring oil from tar sands in Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Critics say the pipeline would do irreparable environmental damage and conflict with US President Barack Obama's promises to curb emissions. Proponents say construction and maintenance will create jobs.

    Cullison, a self-described climate activist, said she attended the event specifically to ask Clinton about the pipeline.

    "It's good for me to be informed as to where a potential president stands on those issues," Cullison told Business Insider in a phone interview. "I could not in good faith vote for someone who did not oppose the Keystone pipeline."

    Keystone XL pipeline

    Cullison said that though she hasn't made up her mind on which candidate she plans on supporting, she said she believed Clinton answered the question in a straightforward way.

    "I think she was very genuine — I thought her answer was most likely planned, as she is a politician, but I think it was genuine," Cullison said. "It is definitely a plus in the Hillary column for me as a voter."

    But the Drake student added that she did not think Clinton's current climate plan— which proposes increasing renewable-energy sources and moving to incentivize solar-panel installation, among other points — goes far enough.

    "Implementing solar panels is great. However, adding renewable energy is only half the solution," Cullison said.

    Clinton has long demurred when asked whether she supported the pipeline. As a candidate, she has said she would avoid taking a position until the review process ran its course. The former secretary of state's silence — contrasted with the vocal opposition of Democratic rivals US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley — frustrated many climate activists.

    But Clinton recently hinted that she may be close to opposing the pipeline, saying she could no longer wait for Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to make a decision.

    Cullison told Business Insider that she plans on posing similar questions to Republican and Democratic presidential candidates as they pass through Iowa.

    "I'm not afraid to do it anymore. I'd love to go talk to other people and ask more questions," she said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 11 little-known facts about Hillary Clinton

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    Ford F150 Tremor pick-up truck

    Earlier this week, it was revealed that Volkswagen was cheating on emission tests to make their cars seem more environmentally friendly.

    This news brings to light just how important customer demand for greener cars has become as the public grows more aware of the impact greenhouse gases have on Earth's climate and environment.

    Unfortunately, worrying recent data shows that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) the US spews into the environment is on a dangerous upward trend. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to climate change.

    Nevertheless, there is something that we, as individuals, may be able to do about it.

    In 2013, transportation accounted for more than a quarter of all US greenhouse gas emissions. This includes how much you emit while driving to and from work, as well as emissions from planes, boats, ships, trains, and other vehicles involved in transporting goods and people.

    Here's a list of how much CO2 the 10 best-selling cars of 2014 emit each year.

    BI_Graphics_CO2 emissions for 10 best selling vehicles of 2014_02To get our numbers, we used this Car Emissions Calculator, which uses data from the Fuel Consumption Guide database, to estimate how much each car emits over 20,000 miles of travel.

    If your car isn't on the list or you drive more than 20,000 miles a year, you can calculate how much CO2 you're emitting each year with your car alone using this handy Offsetters' Car Emissions Calculator.

    UP NEXT: The top 10 foods with the biggest environmental footprint

    SEE ALSO: Devastating photos show how wildfires are turning parts of Calfornia into an apocalyptic wasteland

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These artists totaled some cars in order to make an enormous salamander

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    Pope Francis enlisted the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr to help bolster his call for urgent action on climate change on Wednesday in a welcoming ceremony at the White House that Barack Obama said would “shake our conscience from slumber”.

    Speaking in front of crowd of nearly 15,000 guests that had begun packing into the south lawn before dawn, the pope wasted no time in striking an unashamedly political tone during his first public event of a six-day visit to the US.

    In a surprise move, the pope made what amounted to a direct reference to Obama’s new emission regulations, which are deeply controversial among Republicans. Before a crowd of VIPs and dignitaries that included lawmakers from both parties, the pope told the president it was “encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution” at a “crucial moment in history”.

    Pope Francis extended the metaphor of injustice to include the need to care for “our common home”.

    In words that pile moral pressure on those who oppose carbon emission regulations, the pope said: “It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”

    To loud applause, the pontiff said: “To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”

    “We know by faith that the creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home,” he added.

    The pope’s explicit reference to the Obama administration’s new proposed regulations makes the comments the most politically charged remarks since Francis began his journey to Cuba and the US. While in Cuba, he encouraged leaders of both countries to keep striving for reconciliation, but he steered clear of any direct references to political controversies on either side, including the trade embargo, and did not meet with political dissidents.

    While his support for the new rules are not surprising, given his views on the need for environmental action, it is unusual for the pope to speak about specific government regulation or policy, just as he does not usually mention politicians by name.

    The reference to the moral need to protect our “common home” echoes the pope’s second encyclical, which was published in June, and is seen by Democrats as a crucial step in helping persuade climate sceptics in Washington of the urgency of carbon reduction initiatives.

    The pope, visiting the US for the first time, also drew from King’s “I have a dream” speech, implying there was also a responsibility under the US constitution to tackle climate change.

    King originally accused the US of defaulting on the “promissory note” drawn up by the founding fathers to grant all men inalienable rights, claiming African Americans had been given “a bad check”.

    The pope called for action: “Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them,” he added. “Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities, our societies.”

    Obama paid tribute to the pope for “shak[ing] our conscience from slumber” in a warm welcome that made clear the personal bond between the two men.

    “Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet – God’s magnificent gift to us,” he said. “We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.”

    The president also thanked Francis for his diplomatic support for talks between the US and Cuba.

    “We are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people, which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people,” said Obama.

    Earlier, a ripple of whoops and cheers swept around the south lawn as the Pope’s familiar white cassock was first spotted against the cream of the White House colonnade. Despite the pomp of military brass bands and Vatican anthem, there was a relaxed atmosphere to the first public event of this highly anticipated visit.

    Many of the thousands who have flocked to Washington DC view this papacy as a unifying one that helps underline the role of spirituality in public life. Nonetheless, the sight of the moral leader of millions praising specific – and vexed – environmental regulations alongside Obama was likely an uncomfortable one for many Republicans who had hoped there would be a less explicit political message.

    The welcoming ceremony at the White House is only a taste of what might be to come when Pope Francis addresses Congress on Thursday.

    This article originally appeared on


    This article was written by Dan Roberts in Washington and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

    SEE ALSO: There's a monstrous issue at the heart of the VW scandal that no one's talking about

    SEE ALSO: The amount of space junk around Earth has hit a 'critical density' — and it could be a massive problem

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch Pope Francis meet Obama and Biden to kickoff his first US visit

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    Covering about 70% of the Earth's surface, the ocean is the biggest reservoir of water from here to the Sun.

    That vastness also makes them pretty mysterious. Over the centuries, however, we've learned a lot about the oceans. For example, did you know there's a little gold dissolved in every drop?

    The Magazine "" and Neo Mam Studios created an incredible graphic with this and 49 other fascinating facts about the ocean. Some are familiar, some may surprise you, and some make it clear just how critical it is that we take care of the only oceans we've got.

    50 fascinating facts about the ocean V3 

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 12 shocking facts that will change the way you think about water

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    Obama Xi Jinping China

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump was succinct last week when asked how the United States should respond to climate change.

    "It's not a big problem at all," the leader in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination told a radio talk show host. "If you look at China, they're doing nothing about it."

    This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Washington and agreed to take new measures.

    Standing alongside President Barack Obama at the White House, the Chinese leader committed his country to a series of ambitious policies aimed at countering the rise in global temperatures.

    Xi said China would introduce a national cap-and-trade system in 2017 that would limit carbon emissions across major industrial sectors, from electricity to iron and steel production.

    He also pledged to match tougher U.S. fuel standards on heavy trucks planned for 2019, and committed $3.1 billion to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

    "President Xi has lifted the final political excuse of inaction in Washington,” said Li Shuo, a campaigner for environmental group Greenpeace.

    China's aid money matches a similar pledge made last year by Obama, though the money has yet to be delivered to the UN-backed Green Climate Fund because of Republican refusal to appropriate the funds.

    climate change CongressDespite the joint announcement by Xi and Obama, some Republicans remained adamantly opposed to a climate deal.

    "If the president was serious about achieving a substantive climate agreement, he would spend more time working with Congress instead of developing press releases with the Chinese government," said Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. "These public pledges sound good but come with serious economic consequences for the United States."

    For his part, Trump has not made any public comments about the agreement since it was announced. He did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Friday.

    Obama ChinaThe pledges mean that the world's two biggest carbon emitters have now aligned their climate diplomacy going into negotiations for a global accord in Paris this December. 

    It marks a long evolution from the Kyoto climate talks in the 1990s, when China refused to sign any agreement that would limit carbon emissions. That position undermined support for the Kyoto agreement in the U.S. Congress, which refused to ratify it.

    That sentiment remains strong among Republican lawmakers and some Democrats, who oppose U.S. measures to limit carbon emissions because, in part, China has been reluctant to do the same.

    China pollutionThe result has been a standoff between Obama and Congress that hit a nadir in 2010 when the Senate balked at passing the administration's attempt to enact a national carbon market. 

    Now Xi says China will move ahead with just such a market.

    “The irony is rich: emissions trading is an American idea; now it's become an American export,” said David Sandalow,  a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and former under secretary of energy for policy and international affairs.

    climate changeOther parts of the Chinese package reveal a similar change — in tone, at least.

    China's financial pledge is a “watershed moment” for climate diplomacy, environmental groups say, because it shows a willingness to share the billions of dollars believed required to help poor countries shift to low-carbon economies and deal with the effects of a hotter planet.

    China has long seen itself as a developing nation that is expected to be on the receiving end of any international largesse.

    Jake Schmidt, international policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said this change in attitude removes a common complaint about China from Congressional opponents.

    “China is not going to be the recipient of U.S. climate financing, which is how some of our friends on the Hill are painting it,” said Schmidt. “This is a better narrative.”

    In fact, Obama is the more likely leader who will be forced to show up in Paris without money. The first $500 million of the president's $3 billion pledge is held up in thorny budget negotiations on Capitol Hill, where some Republican lawmakers have vowed to block any international climate funding.

    (Editing by Bruce Wallace and Ken Wills)

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    lake pond blue sky

    Air pollution is a big problem — it's responsible for an estimated 3.3 million deaths every year.

    A tiny pollutant called PM2.5, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns across, is considered the most harmful pollutant. It's found in soot, smoke, and dust. When it lodges in the lungs, it can cause long-term health problems like asthma and chronic lung disease.

    While we typically tend to focus on the places that are the least healthy, here's a list of the most healthy.

    Countries are ranked according to their number of clean cities, using data from the WHO

    RELATED: These 10 cities have the worst air pollution in the world, and it is up to 15 times dirtier than what is considered healthy

    SEE ALSO: Before-and-after photos of China's air show just how terrible its air pollution is

    8. Sweden and Brunei: 4 cities each

    Of the top 10 countries with the most clean cities, Sweden and Brunei both have a solid four cities with seriously clean air. Notably, Sweden's two most populated cities, Stockholm and Gothenberg both had PM2.5 levels deemed healthy by WHO, and is actively working to keep its air clean. Brunei, a country surrounded by Malaysia has done a good job of keeping emissions low and maintaining forests, even with rapid industrialization.

    Sweden's cleanest cityUmeå, 5 µg/m3

    Brunei's cleanest cityBrunei-Muara District 5 µg/m3

    7. Portugal and Finland: 5 cities each

    The next two countries also tied for the most cities with clean air, at 5 apiece. Portugal's second biggest city is also its cleanest, in part because it isn't as industrial as other parts of the country and serves as a trade port. Like Sweden, Finland is also a partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and cutting down on carbon emissions.

    Portugal's cleanest city - Porto, 7 µg/m3

    Finland's cleanest citiesOulu and Jyväskylä, 6 µg/m3

    6. Spain: 11 cities

    Spain's cleanest cities, Arrecife and Las Palmas both are located off the coast of Morocco in the Canary Islands. The islands have clean air because of little industrialization, as tourism is one of their main economic drivers. 

    Spain's cleanest cities -Arrecife and Las Palmas, 6 µg/m3

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    NOW WATCH: 5 of the richest countries on Earth are in the Middle East, and they won't take any refugees from their war-torn neighbors

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    shirt 8845

    Often basics are the most difficult articles of clothing to buy. So a few months ago, when I needed all-season wardrobe staple —a white button-up — I prepared for battle.

    Despite my less than optimistic expectations, I stumbled upon what I needed in an unexpected material: Tencel, a fiber made from cellulose found in wood pulp.

    Created by Austrian textile giant Lenzing, Tencel is actually a branded version of a similar fiber, lyocell. Think "Kleenex" versus "facial tissue."

    Still considered a synthetic fiber, Tencel actually falls "somewhere in the middle,"Adheer Bahulkar, a partner at global retail-consulting firm A.T. Kearney, told Business Insider via email. It's harvested from all-natural materials and converted into fabric using a sophisticated nanotechnology process.

    Despite Tencel appearing in athletic wear, bedding, and even denim since the '90s, I had never heard of it until a frenzied hunt for my shirt one day at Anthropologie. I saw the one below hanging on a rack close to the front of the store.

    Anthropologie Tencel shirt

    The style was exactly what I wanted: flowy but in a menswear sort of way. I immediately checked the fabric content, as my mother had drilled into my head on our countless shopping trips. The tag read, "Tencel."

    Tencel? I wracked my brain. What the hell was Tencel?

    I found a sales associate and asked about the fabric. She called it a "cotton alternative" and mentioned the benefits: softness, strength, and breathability. I wrote off her positive comments as a good sales pitch. For a nearly $100 shirt, I wanted more information, so I left the store prepared to do a bit of research that night.

    Hey, I'm a journalist, and I could always make a purchase tomorrow.

    The benefits

    I found internet folk reiterating the sales associate's words on message boards. Compared to cotton, people thought Tencel shrank less, wrinkled less, and breathed more. In the store, I noticed myself that the fabric felt softer and stronger than most cotton.

    When asked about the benefits of Tencel (lyocell), Bahulkar rattled off a similar list.

    "Lyocell is composed of nanofibrils — literally very, very small fibers — which are hydrophilic," a quality that makes the fabric better at absorbing moisture, he wrote. "This gives Tencel unique moisture absorption ability, which in turn makes [it] breathable, softer, [and] less prone to wrinkles."

    shirt 8856Because of these qualities, Tencel's marketing suggests it doesn't collect as much odor or bacteria as other fabrics and needs to be washed less. Whether these claims are true, however, remains unclear, according to Bahulkar.

    Aside from the aesthetic and textural benefits, the marketing suggests Tencel is also more environmentally friendly than other fabrics. It's produced on a "closed-loop system," in which "99% of the chemicals and solvents used in the process to break down the wood pulp are recovered and recycled with minimal waste and very low emissions,"Bahulkar said. The process received the European Award for the Environment from the EU.

    "Tencel does use less land and water than cotton production,"Edward Hertzman, the publisher of Sourcing Journal, which focuses on the retail apparel and textile industry, told Business Insider.

    In fact, according to Bahulkar, cotton, especially when industrially farmed to satisfy global demand, uses up to 20 times more water.

    Tencel is also made from eucalyptus trees, which don't require pesticides or irrigation, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council. Lenzing says it can grow enough trees for a ton of Tencel on half an acre of forestland that is unsuitable for farming. Cotton needs up to five times as much high-quality farmland, according to the NRDC.

    The downsides

    The organization, however, also notes that wood pulp is often sourced from forests underneath an umbrella environmental organization that doesn't hold cutters to very high standards. There's also little difference in sustainability between Tencel and organic cotton in the long run.

    Bahulkar added it's "difficult to be definitive" when calling Tencel more sustainable than cotton, especially because Tencel production is "an extremely minuscule fraction" of cotton production today. And more research needs to be done through the conversion and dying processes. Despite the award-winning closed-loop system, these steps can't avoid harsh chemicals

    From a consumer's perspective, Tencel is also more expensive. Because of the technology required, it simply costs more to produce, which transfers to shoppers, leading to Tencel's perception as a luxury fiber.

    "The reason I say it has a luxury perception is that [companies] spend a lot of money marketing that brand," Hertzman added.

    In fact, Bahulkar says Tencel can carry as much as a 50% to 100% premium over Egyptian cotton, one of the most pricey levels of cotton.

    My find

    After researching, I decided I wanted to take a chance on Tencel — if I could find a cheaper version than Anthropologie offered. On a whim, I stopped at T.J. Maxx. After some heavy rack-scanning (because that's what you have to do), I saw a white button-up in my size and checked the tag — 100% Tencel. Score.

    shirt 8860

    Apparently, finding a completely Tencel piece is rare — "maybe in a woman's shirt, but it's going to be silky," Hertzman said.

    I tried on the shirt — silky it was. And while I didn't recognize the brand, the price was significantly lower than Anthropologie's version — yet the styles mirrored each other. I bought T.J.'s shirt for $29.99.

    After a few months of wearing and washing it, I couldn't be happier with my purchase. It's more airy than a normal cotton button-up, and I've found I don't have to wash it as often. While I haven't seen much difference in wrinkling, just a Tide To Go stain-remover pen erased a giant splotch of black subway gunk from the back and sleeve.

    The future

    "There has been a tremendous growth in Tencel production and use in the market ... People are really into comfort now. They like softness and leisure trends," Hertzman said.

    Markets other than apparel are noticing Tencel as well. It may have even more lucrative uses in batteries and surgical swabs, according to Bahulkar.

    While in 2014, the Cotton Board estimated global production of Tencel at just 243,000 tons (compared to 28.6 million for cotton), many midline retailers, like Bed, Bath & Beyond, H&M, and Uniqlo, have jumped on the trend — as have specialty brands such as Lululemon and Patagonia, just to name a few.

    "Tencel may create a niche for itself and may find favor with a segment of customers or in a segment of uses, but it has a long way to go towards actually replacing cotton,"Bahulkar said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: You’ve been ironing your shirts all wrong — here's a simple guide to get a wrinkle-free shirt

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    GettyImages 2154443

    A single half-empty soda bottle can contaminate an entire load of recyclable plastic at the processing plant, sending thousands of pounds to the landfill instead of being recycled.

    While a little bit of leftover food can seem harmless, mold and bacteria can feed on the debris, multiplying as the recyclables sit in the hot sun on the way from your curb to the recycling center.

    Recycling companies do wash the items, but many sort the incoming material according to its cleanliness. So the dirtier the plastic is, the less valuable it is to recycle since it takes more energy (a thorough cleaning can be expensive) to convert it into a usable material.

    If the material is dirty enough, it's not worth the cost. 

    Waste Management, the largest residential recycler in North America, suggests you wash out everything you want to recycle to prevent items from going in the trash instead.

    This means rinsing out glass, plastic and metals, and making sure any food scraps aren't left inside your cardboard containers. This doesn't mean you need to scrape every last bit of Nutella out of the jar, but a quick rinse can go a long way.

    Each municipality has different rules on what kinds of plastic and cardboard you can recycle, but Waste Management suggests a simple rule is that "bottles, jars, and jugs" are generally accepted in most places.

    Every year in the US, more than 2.4 billion pounds of plastic are recycled — and that number could probably be a lot higher if people cleaned up what they tried to recycle.

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  • 09/30/15--10:07: Hurricane Joaquin is coming
  • Hurricane Joaquin may be the first storm of the 2015 hurricane season to make landfall in the US.

    Here's how the storm looked on Tuesday, September 29:

    Hurricane Joaquin

    What we know so far

    • As of 11AM on Wednesday, Hurricane Joaquin was classified as a Category 1 storm with 80 mile-per-hour winds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    • If Joaquin made landfall in the US, it would be the first to do so since Hurricane Arthur hit North Carolina in early July 2014.
    • As of Wednesday, most of the Bahamas are either under a hurricane warning or watch.
    • The effects of the storm are expected to start hitting the southeast coast of the US by Thursday.
    • Joaquin could build to a Category 3 storm with winds at 115 miles per hour by Saturday morning.

    Here's a map showing Joaquin's current trajectory: 

    Joaquin trajectory

    Here's what Joaquin's wind levels looked like as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday:

    Sep 30, 2015 800 w

    And here's what Joaquin's waves pattern looked like around the same time:

    Sep 30, 2015 14:09 800 w

    We'll keep you posted as the storm develops.

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    Hurricane Joaquin

    States along the eastern seaboard and the Bahamas are bracing for Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 1 hurricane that has slowly been intensifying over the Atlantic.

    As of Wednesday morning, The National Hurricane Center upgraded Joaquin to a hurricane after an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance aircraft measured winds howling at nearly 100 miles per hour.

    The storm is expected to hit the Bahamas by Wednesday or Thursday, and may pummel the east coast with heavy winds and rain by this weekend.

    It's extremely hard to predict the path of the storm — computer models and meteorologists are struggling to determine which states will be affected, if any, and when.

    Here's a map showing Joaquin's current trajectory:

    Joaquin trajectory

    Meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted this hurricane analysis tool designed by Levi Cowan at the website Tropical Tidbits, which predicts that the storm will dump up to 2 feet of rain onto the eastern seaboard states within the next week, even if it doesn't make landfall there.

    Here's the animation of the rainfall projections along the east coast from September 30 to October 7. The projection shown here isn’t an official NOAA prediction, but it pulls data from US, Canadian, European, Japanese, and other forecast models. The color bar, which is displayed in inches, ranges from light rain in green to torrential downpours producing up to 2 feet of rain in orange.

    States as far south as South Carolina all the way up to Maine could get pummeled with rain.

    Hurricane Joaquin may be the first storm of the 2015 hurricane season to make landfall in the US. It could build to a Category 3 storm with winds roaring at 115 miles per hour by Saturday morning.

    Holthaus tweeted on September 30 that the storm looks like it will make landfall as a category 2 or 3 storm somewhere between North Carolina and New Jersey.

    Here's how the storm looked on Wednesday, September 30:

    Hurricane Joaquin copy

    If you live in a region that's susceptible to hurricanes, see FEMA's and NOAA's emergency preparedness guides.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    While Hurricane Joaquin slams into the Bahamas, forecasts are looking as if the storm will eventually head directly up the East Coast toward New York.

    Joaquin forecast

    At 11 a.m. on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center predicted that Joaquin would be off the coast of New Jersey and New York by 8 a.m. on Tuesday. By then the winds are projected to drop from 125 mph now down to 65 mph, making it a tropical storm.

    Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric-sciences program at the University of Georgia, told Business Insider that his concern for Joaquin was not so much the storm itself and whether it would make landfall in the US, but what it would do to the rain that is already hitting the Northeast.

    "If and when it makes landfall in the US, it will be a different storm," he said. "The Bahamas are experiencing the hurricane at its strongest. But it might be just as treacherous because of all the rain."

    CHECK OUT: Hurricane Joaquin is slamming the Bahamas with winds of up to 125 mph

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    Hurricane Joaquin, the third Atlantic hurricane of the season, is predicted to make its way up the East Coast over the next few days, eventually heading toward New York.

    As of Thursday, Joaquin has been pummeling the Bahamas with 125 mph winds and heavy rain.

    But until the storm gets farther along, it's hard to tell exactly how it'll all go down. In the meantime, we have maps like this one, called a "spaghetti plot," below. These type of plots are designed to account for different assumptions and weather patterns, so there can be a wide range of possible storm directions: 


    That's a lot of options.

    From the looks of the spaghetti plot, the hurricane could go anywhere from straight out into the Atlantic to directly toward South Carolina. Which is why this isn't necessarily the kind of forecasting method many meteorologists prefer. Marshall Shepherd, the director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, told Business Insider that this kind of forecasting is "not that good."

    Instead, Shepherd what meterologists call a "cone of certainty." Instead of a single line or groups of lines, the cone of certainty looks like this (based on the Thursday 11 a.m. update on Joaquin):


    Thankfully, in terms of predicting a hurricane's potential path, the science has gotten much better over the past few years, said Shepherd. What's still difficult to predict is the intensity of the storm — and the potential havoc they could wreak.

    Here's what we do know: Get ready for rain.

    Even before Joaquin was classified as a hurricane, the East Coast was slated for rain. Regardless of whether Joaquin makes landfall, it will bring rain. The mid-Atlantic region was already forecast to receive between six-to-12 inches — before Joaquin got its "major hurricane" status.

    Guess it's time to get the rain boots out.

    RELATED: Hurricane Joaquin is on track to hit New York

    CHECK OUT: Hurricane Joaquin is slamming the Bahamas with winds of up to 125 mph

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    Hurricane Joaquin is still hitting the Bahamas hard.

    The eye of the storm was near Samana Cay, a largely uninhabited island in the Bahamas, on Thursday morning. The National Hurricane Center says the storm is still hitting the central Bahamas with winds and heavy rain. 

    Joaquin has now picked up winds up to 130 mph, upgrading it to a Category 4 storm out of 5. That means it's holding steady as a "major hurricane." Overnight, the winds picked up to 120 mph, intensifying to 125 mph by 11 a.m. 

    Here's what the storm looked like on Thursday at 8:55 a.m. ET:

    Joaquin oct 1 8 am

    Joaquin will move southwest for a while over the Bahamas before turning west-northwest on Thursday night.

    Once it does turn north, it looks like the mid-Atlantic will start feeling some of the effects of the storm. In the 2 p.m. storm update, the NHC said the elevated water levels and large waves will cause some erosion and coastal flooding. 

    According to Bahamas Press, there's already some flooding happening on Acklins Island, which is on the southern eyewall.

    And regardless of whether Joaquin makes landfall in the US, the East Coast should expect heavy rain and take precautions for flooding, meteorologists say.

    On Thursday afternoon, the storm's winds could reach 135 mph.

    Here's a map of Joaquin's projected path as of 11 a.m.:

    Screen Shot 2015 10 01 at 11.20.38 AM

    And here's what the winds looked like as of 10 a.m. Thursday:

    storm Thursday am gif

    The Bahamas were baring the brunt of the storm on Thursday, as you can see in this YouTube video taken in Crooked Island:

    Even the Turks and Caicos Islands to the southwest of the Bahamas were being pummeled with rain and some flooding:

    Chances are things will ease up a bit in the Turks and Caicos Islands as the storm moves north towards the US. Experts are currently estimating that the storm could begin to be felt along the US East Coast on Thursday evening and in New York on Tuesday.

    We'll keep you posted as updates continue to come in. 

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    Joaquin is still pummeling the Bahamas with 130 mph winds.

    The Category 4, out of 5, storm is moving slowly, which means it's still hitting parts of the Bahamas that have been in the storm's path since late Wednesday night

    Here's what the storm looked like on October 1:

    Joaquin Oct 1

    It's looking less likely that the storm will make landfall on the East Coast, as forecasts had expected Thursday.

    But because Joaquin is moving so slowly, the National Hurricane Center is still being cautious about what it could mean for the US and Bermuda:

    Bermuda, an island pretty far off the East Coast of the US, still could get hit hard by the hurricane, depending on how close the storm comes to it.

    Even if Joaquin doesn't make landfall, the East Coast, especially in the mid-Atlantic, should brace itself for rain, which was already in the forecast before Joaquin got going.

    Here's the five-day forecasted track for Joaquin, as of 11 a.m. ET Friday. The center of Joaquin is labeled with the orange circle.

    Screen Shot 2015 10 02 at 11.02.43 AM

    We'll keep you posted as updates come in. 

    ICYMI: Hurricane Joaquin is still slamming the Bahamas as a Category 4 out of 5 storm

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    DETROIT (AP) — Officials in Michigan declared a public health emergency Thursday over the city of Flint's water, after months of resident complaints about its smell and taste, in response to tests that showed children with elevated levels of lead.

    A day after Gov. Rick Snyder said the consequences of using the Flint River for the city's drinking water weren't "fully understood," Genesee County Commissioners recommended that people not use the water unless it first goes through an approved filter at taps.

    A group of doctors called a news conference last week to report high levels of lead in blood samples from children, as the corrosive water is apparently releasing lead from old pipes in homes. It was among the most significant challenges to the quality of Flint water since the city decided last year to stop paying Detroit for its water service.

    Mayor Dayne Walling said Thursday residents should follow the county commission's declaration on using filters certified for lead removal, having water tested and flushing cold water for five minutes before drinking it.

    A coalition of local citizens and national groups petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to order Michigan and state environmental officials to reconnect Flint to Detroit water.

    "As evidenced by the ongoing poisoning of the children of Flint, it's time for the EPA to take immediate action to provide us with a safe water source," said LeeAnne Walters, a Flint parent and member of the Water You Fighting For group.

    Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, speaks during an interview in New York, November 8, 2013.

    Detroit's water system serves about 4 million people in communities across southeastern Michigan.

    "This department is always willing to explore possibilities that may be beneficial ... for the residents of Flint and the other communities that we serve," William Wolfson of the Detroit Water Department told The Associated Press.

    Flint is among a number of communities that have complained about the rising cost of Detroit's water and sewerage service. City officials estimated the cost of buying water from Detroit at $16 million. They turned off Flint's tap to Detroit water in April 2014 and opted for Flint River water until the city switches to a new pipeline from Lake Huron. The overall annual cost to be part of the Lake Huron system would be $12.5 million.

    The decision to break away from the Detroit system was made while a Snyder-appointed emergency manager was running the long-struggling city, which had reached a financial crisis.

    "In terms of a mistake, what I would say is we found there are probably things that weren't as fully understood when that switch was made," Snyder said Wednesday.

    But residents have been unhappy with the taste and appearance of water from the Flint River. They also have raised health concerns, reporting rashes, hair loss and other problems. A General Motors plant stopped using the water, saying it was rusting its parts.

    Despite the complaints, city officials had said state tests showed the water met federal safety guidelines.

    In this Feb. 3, 2015 photo, Flint residents receive free water being distributed at the Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Flint, Mich. Since the financially struggling city broke away from the Detroit water system last year, residents have been unhappy with the smell, taste and appearance of water from the city’s river as they await the completion of a pipe to Lake Huron.

    More concerns surfaced after Virginia Tech researchers posted an online report in early September saying Flint's water is "creating a public health threat" in old homes that have lead pipes or pipes fused with lead solder.

    Flint officials say they know which homes have risky pipes but the information is on about 45,000 index cards and difficult to retrieve.

    The city is now telling residents to use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula, and recommending they use the certified filters. The General Motors Foundation, the local United Way and others have given at least $105,000 to buy filters for 5,000 residents.

    But Kary Moss, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan — one of the group's filing the petition with the EPA — says the first step has to be removing the Flint River as the city's source of water.

    SEE ALSO: Hurricane Joaquin is still slamming the Bahamas as a Category 4 out of 5 storm

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    Hurricane Joaquin is slowly moving northward as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds.

    It's notoriously tricky to predict hurricanes, though we're getting better about tracking where they're going. And seeing the storm from space is one of the best ways to see the storm and where it's headed.

    Check out all the different ways meteorologists — amateur and professional alike — are keeping tabs on the storm.

    Here's how Joaquin has progressed, as seen by NOAA/NASA satellite from September 24 to October 1.


    The satellites also help with measuring aspects of the storm, such as sea level pressure. The dark spot is the center of the storm on Thursday:

    Screen Shot 2015 10 02 at 10.42.46 AM

    Atmospheric moisture:

    Screen Shot 2015 10 02 at 10.41.51 AM

    And wind speeds, as seen on Friday.Screen Shot 2015 10 02 at 12.02.40 PM

    Astronaut Scott Kelly snapped a picture of the storm from space as well, showing where it was in relation to Miami in the upper left corner.

    Others imaged the storm in context to the whole globe, as seen on Thursday. This image looks at the storm using European satellite agency EUMESTAT and NOAA satellite imaging. 

    Joaquin from space

    But on the more scientific side, the NOAA has been closely monitoring Joaquin using GOES satellites. This image, taken using infrared satellite imaging shows the temperature of the clouds, which is used to determine storm intensity.

    GOES_Loops_ _Caribbean__Rainbow__GOES_East__Loop_ _NOAA_GOES_Geostationary_Satellite_Server

    MORE ON JOAQUIN: Hurricane Joaquin is moving slowly — here's what that means for the East Coast

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    Mealworms are those squirmy guys you took care of in science class or fed to a particularly hungry pet chicken or reptile.

    And new studies from Stanford suggest that these creepy crawlers could be incredibly good for the environment.

    Two papers, published in Environmental Science and Technology this week, found that mealworms can eat Styrofoam, turning a huge source of waste into compost that can be safely used on soil.

    "Sometimes, science surprises us. This is a shock," said Craig Criddle, who supervises plastics research at Stanford, in a press release.

    Styrofoam, and in particular Styrofoam cups, are everywhere, and less than 10 percent of those used in the United States get recycled. In the first studyresearchers found that mealworms fed only Styrofoam were just as healthy as mealworms fed the more traditional meal (bran, in this case). Each worm could eat about a pill-sized portion every day.

    In the second study focused on the mealworms' gut microbes, which are able to break down the plastic safely. The researchers were able to turn this bacteria into a film that they applied to polystyrene, a form of the same plastic used to make Styrofoam. The bacteria were also able to eat through polystyrene, but at a much slower rate than the mealworms.

    The researchers plan to continue looking into whether mealworms can safely break down other plastics, like those that make up car parts or microbeads. They also plan to look for the marine equivalent of mealworms, in the hopes that some sea creature with a strong stomach can help reduce the massive amount of plastic waste in the oceans.

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