Of Cardboard and Cow Farts
And the winner is … a cardboard box, followed closely by cow farts and evaporating tiles!
The results of Forum for the Future’s green design competition are in, and first prize goes to the Kyoto Box, an aluminum foil-lined cardboard box that makes use of the greenhouse effect to combat, well, the greenhouse effect. Its acrylic cover lets sunlight in but prevents the heat from escaping, allowing its user to boil water without burning any wood or other fuel. The box’s inventor, Jon Bøhmer, hopes that it can catch on in Africa, where it could serve to reduce water-borne disease and cut back on emissions from combusting wood — all for the low cost of $5.
In fact, it could end up costing nothing at all. Bøhmer expects the box to be eligible for carbon credits, which polluting companies could buy to offset their emissions. If the revenue is then passed on to the users, the initial price tag would be negated.
It’s an admirable project, but since it’s not much fun to read about a cardboard box, I’ll focus my attention on a runner-up for the prize, which tackles a major global problem that’s on everyone’s mind: bovine flatulence.
Methane released by the digestive tract of cows and other grazing animals constitutes 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — more than comes from transportation. And while making more fuel-efficient cars has been tough, making more fuel-efficient cows is even tougher.
Enter Mootral. It’s a garlic-based antibiotic that can be added to an animal’s food to reduce its methane emissions (farts and burps, in layman’s terms) by up to 94 percent. It works by limiting the growth of bacteria in the animal’s digestive stomach — and it’s the bacteria that release all the offending gases. Call it Bovine Beano.
If all of the world’s farmers and herders gave Mootral to their animals, and the antibiotic worked as well on the ground as it has in the lab, a huge chunk of global emissions could potentially be wiped out.
But alas, the $75,000 prize went to the box, so Mother Earth might have to hold her breath a bit longer.