Articles You Might Have Missed

Climate Good News –

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change. Here are some good news briefs compiled by the Climate Issue group of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom.

Are Mussels the Beef of the Future?

Due in part to its tremendous efficiency, mussel farming is seen by a new generation of food producers as having exciting potential for feeding a growing population while restoring native biodiversity, which has been damaged or destroyed by pollution and harmful fishing practices.

John Holmyard at Offshore Shellfish, the UK’s first fully offshore rope-cultured mussel farm off the Devon coast, describes it as “like going from a plowed field and into a forest. We have found the farm is providing a settlement for all sorts of species … Certainly within the water column, every year we seem to see another species using the nets to feed and aggregate around.”

Mussel farming with suspended ropes creates a marine habitat, an ecosystem which is permanent. All you do is rotate the ropes so there is always the habitat there. It ups biomass by 3.6 times and biodiversity by 1.6 times,” says farmer Airnes. Mussels attach to whatever substances they can find in the water, in this case four 220 meter-long doubleheader ropes, explains Dr. Judith Brown, one of the scientists involved in the study. “When they are very small, they release spat [juvenile mussels] that stick to things hanging in the water. Effectively, mussel farming is providing the substrate that they would naturally stick to.”

Aside from maintaining the ropes and redistributing the mussels to spread them out when they are young, there are no further inputs — unlike almost all other methods of farming. The mussels simply grow at their natural rate. “When we first got there, the seabed was completely dredged, a classic scallop-dredged ground. There were species there — lots of scavenging species — but the diversity was very low.” says Dr. Brown.

Large swathes of the UK’s coastline are heavily polluted. It’s believed that mussel farms can go some way to reinstating habitats and natural filtration that would have existed before industrialized fishing without the need for additional food, water or treatments. Growing meat vertically in the water column also raises exciting possibilities for alternative land use and a solution to the nutritional demands of a growing global population.

A recent paper notes: “There is no requirement for feed or antibiotics for mussel cultivation, and the GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with suspended mussel production are a fraction of that associated with producing terrestrial meat or even farmed salmon.” No wonder the mussel looks like a tiny miracle for the planet.

Reasons to Be Cheerful, “Mussel Farming Is Healing the UK’s Coastal Food Chain” by Alexander Turner, 12/22/222


Electrifying the Process for Making Iron

Making iron, the main ingredient of steel, takes a toll on Earth’s delicate atmosphere, producing 8 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, a team of chemists has come up with a way to make the business much more eco-friendly. By using electricity to convert iron ore and salt water into metallic iron and other industrially useful chemicals, researchers report today in Joule that their approach is cost effective, works well with electricity provided by wind and solar farms, and could even be carbon negative, consuming more carbon dioxide (CO2) than it produces.

Karthish Manthiram, a chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology, who was not involved with the study, says that the process has other advantages, including working at a low temperature, and being amenable to working with intermittent renewable electricity … “It checks all the boxes.“ A preliminary economic analysis suggests the new process should be cost-competitive with traditional iron making.

Still, a laboratory experiment is a long way from an industrial process. Even if the technique can be scaled up, there are kinks to work out. Th e Oregon group’s setup generates essentially as much chlorine gas as it does iron, notes Iryna Zenyuk, a chemical engineer at the University of California, Irvine. Although chlorine gas has many industrial uses, the amount that would be generated by a scaled-up version of the new method would be more than is needed, leading to pollution. As well, Zenyuk says, producing iron electrochemically requires that the starting iron oxide be pristine without the impurities found in most ores. “Purification can be costly,” she says.

Scaling production to match industrial chlorine gas needs would still produce tens of millions of tons of CO2-free iron and chlorine annually, Manthiram notes. As for the purification of iron oxide, he adds that because sodium hydroxide is well known to bind to trace impurities in iron ore, some of it can be used to purify the iron oxide prior to use in the reactor. If it all works out, ironmaking could someday put a little less burden on the climate.

Science, “An electrifying new iron making method could slash carbon emissions” by Robert F. Service, Feb. 2024


Can Seaweed Replace Single-Use Plastic?

According to Plastic Oceans, (, approximately 180 billion plastic bags are produced annually for storing and protecting clothing, shoes, and accessories. These bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. But there may be an alternative. A new start-up, Sway Seaweed Packaging, is beginning to market a biodegradable product made from what we always thought of as a nuisance as we waded in the ocean — yes, seaweed.

Sway’s seaweed-based bags biodegrade in just four to six weeks. The seaweed used can also sequester up to 20 times more carbon per acre than trees, according to a Harvard University study.

The company collaborates with ocean farms that cultivate seaweed, ensuring a responsible and sustainable harvesting process. The seaweed, when harvested, is described as being akin to giving the plants a haircut rather than uprooting them, promoting their continued growth.

But wait, the best part is … this could amount to an easy transition. Sway’s materials seamlessly integrate into existing supply chains and machinery, eliminating the need for new infrastructure. The company’s focus is on encouraging corporations and brands (the major producers of waste) to adopt their material rather than placing the burden on individual consumers.

Sway is part of a growing trend in the industry, with investments in seaweed-based start-ups doubling in 2021. Plastic alternatives often face challenges, such as the difficulty of composting cornbased plastic, which requires large amounts of land to grow. Seaweed farms, on the other hand, offer the benefit of creating jobs along coastlines without the need for additional land or fertilizer.

The company is already getting quite a bit of attention in the sustainability world. Sway was named as a winner of the Beyond the Bay Challenge in 2021, and earlier this year won first prize from the Tom Ford Plastic Plastic Innovation Prize.

Good Newsletter,, Dahlia Ghabar contributor, 1/23/2024

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