A Plastic Eating Mushroom has Been Discovered

Did you know there’s a mushroom which consumes plastic? Whereas organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup are dedicated to cleaning plastic out of oceans and rivers, nature has proven to us there are other ways to be rid of plastic pollution. 

It’s called the Pestalotiopsis microspore. It is a rare fungus which was discovered several years ago, inside the Amazonian rainforests of Ecuador. It has the ability to consume polyurethane, the essential ingredient in plastic products, and convert it into organic matter. 

Even better is that Pestalotiopsis microspore does not need oxygen to survive. This would make it perfect for feeding on and clearing up landfills. 

What’s even better still is that this fungus can fulfill more than one purpose. Designers Katharina Unger and Julia Kaisinger, along with scientists at Utrecht University, have modified the original Pestalotiopsis microspore to create something entirely new. 

Known as the Fungi Mutarium, this prototype creates a unique, edible fungal food product. It uses mushroom-esque pods of Ajar, which is a seaweed-based gelatin, and the pods act as a nutrient base for the fungus. The pods are then filled with plastic and covered up. The fungus eventually devours the plastic, along with other sugars and starches, leaving behind a mushroom-like cup. The cup can either be filled with other food, or eaten by itself. The whole process, from beginning to end, takes several months. 

But how do these Ajar pods taste? According to Katharina Unger, it depends on the strain of fungus, but it often has a sweet, licorice-like flavour. Having watched a video demonstration of how it works, that makes me want to give Fungi Mutarium a try. They look tasty. 

The project was developed not only to help dispose of plastic waste, but also to revolutionize global food production. Given the sheer number of people around the world who go hungry every night, a widespread food source that converts trash into something edible would indisputably be of great value. 

Katharina Unger has made another fantastic discovery. It turns out there’s multiple species of mushrooms that will consume plastic, some of them much more common than the Pestalotiopsis microspore. Among these is the oyster mushroom, which too is edible. 

Despite the overall success so far, there are other hurdles still to overcome. Actually convincing people to eat these unusual mushrooms may be a challenge all of its own. There are also more studies which need to be conducted to determine if the mushrooms really are safe to eat. 

Regardless, there will be many benefits to reap if it does take off. Plastic consumption aside, these mushrooms can also remove pollutants from soil, as well as converting waste into biofuels, and they can even be used for furniture and building materials! Even if the mushroom is not used for any of these, it is still far more biodegradable than plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose on its own. 

The future of mushrooms may hold a lot of promise. It just goes to show that effective solutions will often show up in unexpected ways. 


The Ocean Clean Up Crew Unveil The “Interceptor”

Born in July 1994, Boyan Slat is a Dutch entrepreneur and inventor who uses technology to help combat global problems. In February 2013, he founded The Ocean Cleanup at a remarkably young age. The organization has since expanded to a team of around 80 people, of which Boyan is currently the CEO. 

In 2018, Boyan led his team to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive vortex in the Pacific Ocean utterly loaded with pieces of floating plastic and other garbage. It is, in fact, the largest collection of plastic in all the oceans. 

In their efforts to clear the mess away, The Ocean Cleanup launched its first ever plastic-cleaning device. It was a 2,000-foot U-shaped array known as “System 001,” nicknamed “Wilson.” Unfortunately, Wilson’s sensors and satellite system began to malfunction, and its collected plastic began to leak back into the garbage vortex. Although the device was still successful in clearing out some of the plastic from the vortex, and it thankfully did no environmental damage of its own, ultimately it brought back to port for repairs. 

In summer of 2019, The Ocean Project tried again with a newer and better cleanup device, “System 001/B,” which used an underwater parachute to slow the device’s movement through the water, as well as inflatable bags to speed it up. 

Alas, the new design ran into another problem. It used a cork line to help contain the plastic, in a similar manner to lines that divide the lanes of a swimming pool. As it turned out, the line wasn’t tall enough to prevent plastic from passing over. It will be necessary to improve upon this and make the cork line taller to ensure the device works correctly. 

The Ocean Project still has not given up, and is determined to continue their clean-up efforts at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the meantime, they have focused their efforts on clearing up river pollution. On October 26th, 2019, they unveiled their latest invention, called “The Interceptor.” Having been in development since 2015, it too is built around cleaning up plastic, capable of extracting anywhere from 50,000kg to 100,000kg of trash per day. 

In fact, multiple Interceptors have been built. Two of them are already active in Jakarta (Indonesia) and Klang (Malaysia) respectively. A third Interceptor will be set up in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) while a fourth will be set up in Santa Domingo (Dominican Republic). There has also been an agreement made to set up another Interceptor near Bangkok, and an in-progress agreement for another one in LA Country (USA). 

While there has been some trial-and-error, everyone at The Ocean Project deserves praise and recognition for their innovative methods and for all the hard work they’ve done to make this planet a brighter, cleaner, and safer place. We all could take some inspiration from them, both in their good cause and in their refusal to let their setbacks stop them. 

Sources used: 

Thailand’s Skies are Raining Seed Bombs

Deforestation is a growing problem across the globe as humans are cutting down trees, and forest fires are occurring at an alarming rate. The earth is unable to sustain itself and produce the regrowth required for a balanced ecosystem. Consequently, additional initiatives are necessary due to the severe loss of the earth’s vegetation.

The nation of Thailand is aiming to fix damages caused by the impact of large industries and land being used for agriculture and livestock. Thailand officials had been reminded of the concept of seed bombing. Seed bombing is a concept that originated from a Japanese farmer.

The ancient practice of “tsuchidango” or “earth dumpling,” now referred to as seed bombing, was discovered in the 20th century. Masanobu Fukuoka, a farmer, also known as an advocate of “Do Nothing Farming,” propagated the idea. The earliest known record of seed bombing goes back to 1930 when planes were used to reforest certain areas in the mountains of Honolulu.

Trees in Phitsanulok, Thailand.

Thailand officials fancied the idea and believed seed bombing was a viable solution. Their answer to deforestation was wrapped in a mixture of earth, clay, and compost, to facilitate germination. The government put together a five-year plan implementing a reforestation pilot project, with the aid of the Thai military.

The first mission was in May of 2019, in the forested region of Phitsanulok, in lower northern Thailand. The government used military transport planes to release a series of “seed bombs.” These seed bombs consisted of pits and germs from native plants being dropped from the sky, like a bomb into degraded forests and vegetation.

The reforestation from the air will be monitored and evaluated by Environmental Specialists, with expectations of positive results. As the missions continue throughout the year of 2019, this new technique expects the seed bombs to aid in the planting of thousands of trees. As a result of using the plane, approximately 950,000 trees can be planted in a day.

Location of Phitsanulok region, in lower northern Thailand.

The Thai people anticipate the recovery of their degraded forests and yearn to re-green their country again. Dropping seed bombs from planes is not the only effective way. Humans can collect seeds and kernels and wrap them up in clay, dirt, and leaves. Once completed, throw it into an area which is lacking trees or green space.

Perhaps one should consider this as a future goal. Go for a walk, play in the dirt, pick up seeds, and throw them around.

Rare Pink Dolphin Gives Birth to Pink Calf

“Pinky” A rare pink dolphin in Louisana.

A rare pink river dolphin named “Pinky” has given birth to an extremely rare pink dolphin calf in Louisiana’s Calcasiey River. The pink river dolphin, also known as The Amazon River dolphin, or boto, is commonly found in freshwater rivers and lakes in the Amazon and South America. Conversely, Pinky has been a resident of the Louisiana River for the past ten years. The locals adore her. The citizens are ecstatic to watch Pinky and her calf swim down the river and hopefully produce a pod, which is a group of dolphins.

A local charter boat captain in Louisiana, Captain Rue said, via The Sun:

“The mammal is entirely pink from tip to tail and has reddish eyes. The skin appears smooth, glossy pink, and without flaws. Surprisingly, it does not appear to be drastically affected by the environment or sunlight as might be expected considering its condition, although it tends to remain below the surface a little more than the others in the pod. I feel very fortunate to have seen this incredible mammal and lucky to be able to work and live in the area where such a fantastic creature frequents. Our guests are always thrilled at the opportunity to spot such a unique mammal, and we look forward to it being around for some time to come.”

Pinky and her young calf

Photographs and videos of this dolphin have been widely circulated due to the rare occurrence of albino dolphins. This River Dolphin is often referred to as a “pink” dolphin because of its pink coloration. In actuality, it is an albino, and albino dolphin calves are typically born dark gray, but slowly turn pink as they age.

Several influences on their final color are their behavior, capillary placement, diet, and exposure to sunlight. When the dolphins get excited, they can flush bright pink, similar to humans blushing. 

Unfortunately, the population of these warm-blooded mammals is on the decline. There are approximately 9,000 pink dolphins left in the world. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in its latest Red List published in November 2018, River Dolphins habituating in the Amazon River are endangered. 

They are incredibly vulnerable in certain areas due to dams that fragment and threaten specific populations. Additional threats such as contamination of rivers and lakes are also hazardous to the survival of the boto dolphin. Humans have played a part in the declining population due to sometimes accidentally killing a dolphin when they are fishing in the deep waters. There are a variety of delicate reasons that are leading to the decline of the pink dolphin population.

Humans must work together to save endangered ecosystems such as the Amazon rain-forest and its rivers that run throughout Latin America. There are more species than just the river dolphins, which need saving. These are the critical moments in our time to step up and take action.

Coconut Leaves used as Straws in Philippines Café to cut Plastic Waste

A lukay straw made from coconut leaves.

The world has been declared to be in a global crisis due to plastic pollution. Each human needs to remove his or her carbon footprint and replace it with a bio-degradable one. In small corners of the world, humans are making changes, to remove their plastic imprints from our battered green earth.

A cafe owner in the Philippines is utilizing decomposable straws made of coconut leaves as a substitute to single-use plastic straws. The coconut straw is referred to as a “lukay” straw. Lukay is the term used by locals for palm leaves or coconut fronds, and buko is the coconut juice.

The manager, Sarah Tiu, of Café Editha in Siargao Island in the Philippines, adopted the lukay drinking straw idea to eliminate plastic waste in her restaurant. The owner of the café stated she was enthusiastic about the idea. She was inspired, after observing how the coconut leaves were made into drinking straws, during a family trip to Corregidor Island.

Sarah, with practice and dedication, learned how to master the skill of making the lukay straw. Sarah and her nephew also made a “how to” demonstration video, to educate and to promote ways to care for the earth. Every morning before the café opens, Sarah and her crew make the straws. She said each straw takes less than a couple of minutes to make.

The patrons instantaneously took to the new earth-friendly straws, uploading images of glass pitchers containing the lukay straw on their social media pages. The straws are securely bound and leak-proof, eliminating that annoying sound when a straw has a tear or a hole.

This is a pivotal moment in our lives, when we, as humans who inhabit the earth, each need to make a conscious change. Each human needs to do his or her part to remove a carbon footprint and replace it with a bio-degradable one. There are a plethora of non-plastic substitutes to straws, readily available to people. If every business owner and consumer around the world followed suit, they would create a powerful wave in decreasing our global plastic crisis.

Russia orders release of Orcas and Belugas from the “Whale Jail”

Orcas and belugas held in captivity in Russia

In November of 2018, concerning reports dubbed as “Whale Jails” in Russia, triggered a wave of shock, disgust, and criticism.

Near the Russian city of Nakhodka, there are several small and crowded ice water enclosures, housing more than one hundred beluga and orca whales. Marine mammal specialists have stated these compounds are torturous and dangerous to these whales in captivity. They risk freezing, drowning, and hypothermia.

Reports have been unclear as to the exact reason behind Russia’s “Whale Jails.” However, it is a hypothesis, the cruel and unhealthy enclosures hold the whales captive for sales to aquariums and Chinese buyers. In China, killer whales and belugas are testified to be very valuable. According to a report in the U.K.’s Telegraph, a single orca can reach more than $6 million, and the demand is high. Presently, there is a vast demand for marine theme parks in China, with at least 60 already open and more under construction.

Orca whales swimming free in the ocean

Leonardo DiCaprio, Green Peace and animal rights activists have appealed to the Russian Minister of Ecology, the Governor of Primorsky and head of the Russian Fishery Agency to cancel permits and take action to free these mammals from the “Whale Jail.” As the activists were voicing their concerns and getting petitions signed, at least three whales have died in the ice enclosure. According to Russian law, it is only legal to capture whales for scientific or cultural purposes, so legalities around the facilities are under review. 

Tensions continued to increase, and the whales remain caged. As the story propagated, so did the anger across the world. The story was drawing negative attention and mounting rage from international stars, the public, and the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin personally stepped in and demanded the whales be released. Russia’s federal security service has laid charges against four companies for breaking fishing laws, TASS reported.

Currently, investigations are ongoing, in regards to the proper release of the mammals without harm. The whales are being cared for, and the Kremlin wants to ensure no further damage is done to them. Stricter international laws must be enforced concerning the captivity of whales. It is never acceptable to put any mammal in such atrocious conditions, for the pure entertainment of people. We as humans can do better.


Six Lazarus Animals That Became “Un-extinct”

Lazarus taxons, or species, which scientists thought to have been extinct, are reported to still be in existence. The term “Lazarus” is coined from the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible, in which Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

1. Australian Night Parrot

The Australian Night Parrot is well known for being one of the world’s most obscure and mysterious birds. Between 1912 and 1979, there were no definite sightings of the bird and it was considered to be extinct.

In 2013, a naturalist, John Young, captured a photo of the elusive parrot – proving the species to be still in existence. In Australia, over the last few years, sightings of the night parrot have been recorded. Naturalists spotted a young parrot in February 2018. It likely hatched in late 2017. The size of the mysterious bird’s population is unknown.

2. Javan Elephant

Javan elephants became extinct sometime after the 15th century — due to the Sultan of Sulu centuries ago, or so scientists thought, when the Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia. In 2003, scientists discovered through DNA research, the Borneo pygmy elephants of Asia were likely descendants of the Javan elephant.

Borneo is a giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan, and the tiny nation of Brunei. These pygmy elephants in Borneo, on the giant island, could be the last of the Javan elephant population. There are an estimated 1,000 of these elephants in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

3. Wallace Bee

The Wallace Bee can grow up to an inch and a half long with a wingspan of 2.5 inches. It has large mandibles similar to that of a stag beetle. It feeds on nectar and pollen. Alfred Russel Wallace initially discovered the species in 1858, given the apparent name “Wallace’s Giant Bee.” It is also known as the “Giant Mason Bee.”

The largest bee in the world was believed extinct, but 38 years later, researchers rediscovered the Wallace Bee in a high termite mound on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas. Massive deforestation for agriculture purposes threatens the bee’s habitat, and its size and scarcity make it an objective for collectors.

It’s currently legal for this species of bee to be sold abroad. Entomologists are presently pushing for this species to be classified as endangered and to be protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which governs international trade in threatened species.

4. Fernandina Island Galápagos tortoise

An adult female Fernandina giant tortoise is a species of Galápagos tortoise last seen in 1906. In the following years there were discoveries of alleged Fernandina giant tortoise droppings and cactus bite marks in 1964 and 2013. However, no living tortoises were spotted nor were any remains discovered, resulting in scientists presuming this giant tortoise to be extinct.

In February 2019, researchers rediscovered an individual female wandering around a Galápagos island for the first time in more than 110 years. The tortoise was transferred to a breeding center on the nearby island of Santa Cruz for conservation and genetic tests. There is no male Fernandina giant tortoise known to be alive; however, females can store sperm for a prolonged time, giving conservationists and scientists a glimpse of hope.

5. Formosan Clouded Leopard 

The Formosan clouded leopard is a subspecies from the leopards of South East Asia and is indigenous to the mountains of Taiwan. Due to widespread logging of the leopard’s natural habitat, the leopard was forced to retreat into the Jade and Tawu mountains. In 1986, 70 indigenous hunters reported that the last confirmed sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard occurred in Tawu Mountain area in 1983.

The Paiwan people, from an indigenous tribe, were patrolling the jungle. In January 2019, during the patrols, there were two sightings of the feline. Referred to as “Li’uljaw” by the Paiwan people, one patrol observed a leopard climbing a tree before sprinting up a rock face to hunt goats. The other forest patrol described seeing a leopard darting past a scooter before dashing up a tree and going out of sight. As a result of the sightings, hunting is banned in the area, and the indigenous elders requested the Forestry Bureau to stop logging and engaging in other disruptive activities.

6. Magic Rabbit

The lli Pika, dubbed as the “Magic Rabbit,” is a distant relative of the domestic rabbit and was first discovered in 1983 in the Tianshan Mountains in northwestern China. Since then, its estimated population has decreased by 70%. There are fewer than 1,000 left and the species is currently considered endangered. In 2008, the animal was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Conservationists and scientists alike had been unable to spot the lli Pika, fearing its possible extinction, until 20 years later, in 2014, the lli Pika was located again.

The lli Pika, or teddy-like rabbit, is only 20 centimeters long, weights 250 g and lives on sloping bare rock faces, feeding on grasses at high elevations. Global warming and disease are presumed to be factors in the declining population. The Ili Pika isn’t included on China’s List of Wildlife under Special State Protection, part of the country’s 1988 Wildlife Protection Law, and no further conservation efforts have been made to protect the lli Pika. Conservationist, Li Weidong has dedicated his life to protecting the Magic Rabbit, advocating for a nature reserve organization to help protect the animal.

A Taiwanese Leopard Confirmed Extinct, is Now “Unextinct”

Taiwanese Formosan clouded leopard

The Formosan clouded leopard is a subspecies from the leopards of South East Asia and is indigenous to the mountains of Taiwan. The Formosan clouded leopard was Taiwan’s second-largest carnivore, next to the Formosan black bear. Due to widespread logging of the leopard’s natural habitat, the leopard was forced to retreat into the Jade and Tawu mountains. In 1986, 70 indigenous hunters reported that the last confirmed sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard occurred in Tawu Mountain area in 1983.

A decade later, pugmarks (a term used to describe the footprint of most animals) were recorded in the late 1990s near Taiwan’s Yushan National Park. The pugmark was suspected of being made by the Formosan clouded leopard subspecies, but could not be confirmed by experts. Zoologists from Taiwan and the U.S. carried out a 13-year long survey. They used 13,000 camera traps in the Tawu Mountains, to help discover the leopard, but failed to observe a single sighting of the obscure cat. Scientists promptly declared it officially extinct in 2013.

Aboriginal wearing Formosan clouded leopard skin

In June of 2018, Kao Cheng-chi, President of the Association of the Austronesian Community College Development Association, and the village chief of the Paiwan Tribe, shared that the Alangyi Village had set up a team of rangers to patrol traditional areas. As a result, these rangers publically revealed last week that in January 2019, there were two sightings of the feline. Referred to as “Li’uljaw” by the Paiwan people, one patrol observed a leopard climbing a tree before sprinting up a rock face to hunt goats. The other forest patrol described seeing a leopard darting past a scooter before dashing up a tree and going out of sight.

In an interview with Focus Taiwan News Channel, Pan Chih-hua, the Alangyi Village Conference Chairman, confirmed the rangers spotted the Formosan clouded leopard. He added he couldn’t disclose the exact time and location of the sightings. In Paiwan culture, the Formosan clouded leopard represents the spirit of great ancient warriors, and hunting the animal is prohibited, said Pan Chih-hua.  As a result of the sightings, members of the Alangyi Village held a tribal meeting to investigate further. Currently, hunting is banned in the area, and Alangyi Village elders requested the Forestry Bureau to stop logging and engaging in other disruptive activities.

Thanks to the logging and hunting ban in the Tawu Mountains in the area where the Formosan clouded leopard was spotted, this feline’s population should become more apparent. It is critical that governments and villagers continue to support these discoveries and aid the Leopard in its natural habitat. This majestic animal, quietly returning to the mountains of Taiwan, gives a small glimpses of hope for the future and makes one wonder what else may roam free and unknown.


Powering Up A Renewable Energy

Photovoltaic Panels

Solar power is becoming the jewel in the crown of energy production and for good reason. This renewable resource is just one of many options that also includes geothermal, hydro, wind and biofuels.

India made headlines in 2015 when leaders in the country chose to install solar panels in some unique locations. Solar plants were installed along the top of canals to capture the sun’s energy and turn it into a renewable commodity. The unique location for the panels was chosen because less land would be eaten up by the panels as the tops of canals represented a space not being used, and in turn the panels would help lessen evaporation of the valuable resource flowing through the waterway.

Fast forward to 2019 and the growth in solar energy production isn’t slowing down. China is the largest user of solar power — but also wins the award for manufacturing the most solar panels. Japan and Germany follow in spots two and three for solar power production with the United States sitting a tidy fourth.

That’s partly because of how environmentally friendly solar power is to Mother Earth. The renewable resource produces no greenhouse gas emissions. Its downsides are few but do include the process to manufacture photovoltaics (PV) uses some materials considered hazardous and large tracts of land can be eaten up in order to house projects large enough to produce an economically-viable amount of solar power.

So how does it compare to what has been called by some as “dirty oil”? Fossil Fuels still play a huge role in powering the planet due mainly to the stability of production. Solar energy can be fickle — no sunshine, not as much power being produced . Also it can be hard to find suitable locations to put up fields of solar panels, or the right rooftops to make projects viable. 

The good news is technology is advancing quickly. Newer solar systems that produce more power and have the advantage of taking up smaller footprints are available. As the technology improves, the costs of these systems declines, making them more affordable to average consumers. When more people choose solar, it becomes a more socially-acceptable option, increasing its popularity.

It’s worth taking the time to ask a few questions and find out more from your local solar PV system supplier about how you can benefit from the sunshine and maybe even power up your own home.


Sunscreen Choice Can Protect More Than Just Your Skin

Coral Reef

When the sky is clear, and the sun is out, it is an excellent time to enjoy outdoor activities. But protection is essential from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV), since UV rays cause damage to skin, aging it prematurely, and can increase the risk of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is especially essential where UV rays are intense. However, as we protect ourselves, we may be destroying the ocean and its marine life due to toxic substances found within these sunscreens.

Studies completed by marine researchers have revealed two main sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, that are hazardous to coral reefs. (NCCOS, 2014). Scientists state chemically-based sunscreens containing the two elements cause the corals to bleach. (EHP, 2008).  Additionally, the existence of these chemicals in seawater allows viruses to flourish, putting coral reefs at an increased risk of catching an infection that could also lead to bleaching and death. As a result, Hawaii passed a bill on May 1st, 2018, which prohibits the use of sunscreens which contain harmful chemicals.

In addition, marine researchers have found connections between the parabens in sunscreens and their preservatives found in marine mammal’s tissues, such as the Bottlenose Dolphin. Researches have suggested two theories as to why. One may be the result of sunscreen washing off swimmers’ bodies into the ocean. The other argument is that the preservatives are a result of contaminated water moving from plugholes into oceans. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015).


Our personal choice to use reef-safe sunscreen can be an enormous advantage, and there is an abundance available for purchase. Also, water-resistant sunscreens are better as fewer ingredients will wash off your body and face into the ocean. If you are looking for a sunscreen for water activities, check the water resistance duration on the label. Sometimes, the sunscreen bottle itself will claim the products to be “reef safe,” “friendly,” or “coral safe.”


1. Avoid sunscreens that contain the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. Check the label. These two toxic substances cause sunscreen-induced coral bleaching.

2. Look for sunscreen with a mineral base that includes the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens made with these elements are mineral-based. The components of these mineral-based ingredients create a layer on top of the skin, instead of being absorbed by the body, and will still block harmful UV rays. Marine researchers have deemed these ingredients to be less detrimental to corals and not connected to coral bleaching.

3. Look for components that are “non-nano.” For mineral sun blocks to not harm the coral reefs, they must be “non-nano,” therefore, the ingredient particles must be below 100 nanometers in size so that corals can’t ingest them.

4. Reef-safe labels. Most sunscreen companies will label their products as “reef-safe,” or “friendly.” To make sure, always double check the label.