Most Clicked SmartBrief on Sustainability Stories

1. Photos: Manufactured homes work toward net-zero

SmartBrief on Sustainability | Apr 30, 2015

Prefab housing hasn't "been very progressive," but Blu Homes is changing that. It's creating upscale, custom-built homes that are constructed in a factory, then folded like origami and transported to a site. The company aims to have all its houses reach net-zero by 2020 and is working on increasing scale to reduce costs. FastCoExist (04/29)

2. Tesla home battery aimed at transformation of energy infrastructure

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 01, 2015

Electric car manufacturer Tesla has revealed a battery for the home that can store power from solar panels, be used in case of a power outage and potentially transition solar-powered homes to be off the grid entirely. "The goal is complete transformation of the entire energy infrastructure of the world, to completely sustainable zero carbon," said the company's founder, Elon Musk. Japan Times, The (05/01) Reuters (05/01)

3. Get ready for an "empty landscape," scientists say

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 04, 2015

The first major study to look at the state of the planet's large herbivores suggests that populations of plus-size plant-eaters are in decline, with up to 60% of large herbivores now at risk of extinction. "The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert," said Prof. William Ripple of Oregon State University. BBC (05/02)

4. Competitors say they won't get left behind by Tesla

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 04, 2015

Tesla's plan to offer up large-capacity batteries for domestic users could mean radical changes for the household energy sector -- but Elon Musk's company isn't the only one offering domestic battery systems. Samsung, LG Chem and Saft Groupe have similar products, while Ontario-based Electrovaya is hoping to corner the European market for electric vehicle and domestic batteries. Reuters (05/04) Financial Post (Canada) (05/04)

5. How Method built a LEED Platinum factory in Chicago

SmartBrief on Sustainability | Apr 29, 2015

Building Method's new LEED Platinum-rated manufacturing plant on Chicago's South Side wasn't easy, and such efforts require "an abnormal level of coordination" among government agencies, says co-founder Adam Lowry. "You need people in the city that understand not just what you're trying to do but why you're trying to do it, and that are really bought into that," he said. The Chicago plant includes a large rooftop greenhouse. (04/28)

6. Has the Prius lost its way?

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 04, 2015

The Toyota Prius brand is in a tailspin, according to a Networked Insights report that finds the marque's "brand health" has declined 50% over the past year. Only 17% of online discussions of hybrid vehicles mentioned the Prius, the report found, and it suggested that for many consumers, the Prius "no longer represents an eco-friendly alternative, but a humorous, weak, and sometimes un-American brand." (05/04)

7. Civil engineers create sustainable construction practices

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 01, 2015

Skanska has turned its Elizabeth River Tunnels project in Virginia into an example of how civil construction can improve its environmental impact while augmenting modern infrastructure. The company has a recycling/reuse rate of 99% for the project, and its creative ways to benefit the surrounding environment include using concrete waste to create oyster habitats. Environmental Leader (04/30)

8. Drought drains Hoover Dam's power output

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 04, 2015

The Hoover Dam hydropower plant is running about 25% below capacity because of water shortages, and similar problems have seen California's 287 hydroelectric plants forced to reduce their output by 60% over the past four years. "The drought is taking a toll on power generation," said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior Department. Washington Post (tiered subscription model), The (04/26)

9. Sequestered carbon could be used for energy storage

SmartBrief on Sustainability | Apr 29, 2015

Underground storage facilities for captured carbon could double as energy-storage facilities, researchers say. Carbon dioxide could be injected into rocks miles below the Earth's surface, where the planet's heat would cause it to expand, driving special turbines. Discovery (04/27)

10. Pioneering solar plane lacks creature comforts, pilots say

SmartBrief on Sustainability | May 05, 2015

The Solar Impulse 2's pilots are preparing for an uncomfortable five-day flight from Nanjing, China, to Honolulu -- the hardest part yet of their wholly solar-powered round-the-world trip. (05/04)

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