Being exposed to nature helps mental health, says study

Another study highlights the power of nature for human health. The beneficial effects of nature on mental health are in the research entitled “Urban mind: using smartphone technologies to investigate nature’s impact on mental well-being in real time”.

Today more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and this has had several consequences. Among the bad ones we can mention the implications for mental health, such as depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and vicious disorders. It was based on this assumption that researchers created the Urban Mind application. They assessed the influence of green areas for those who live in urban spaces. The main analysis was based on 2094 assessments by 64 participants, who completed a minimum of 25 assessments each.

Method

To analyse the so-called momentary well-being, participants had to answer questions such as: Are you in or out? (in relation to indoor or outdoor environment) Can you see the trees? Can you see the sky? Can you hear the birds singing? Can you see or hear the water? Do you feel in touch with nature? The possible answers to each question were: yes, no and I am not sure.

When people received a notice to complete a momentary ecological assessment, they had up to 30 minutes to complete responses. And each time he completed an assessment, he was invited to send a photograph of the soil and / or an audio recording of the environment.

Conclusion

Research suggests that nature’s benefits on mental well-being are long-lasting and interact with an individual’s vulnerability to mental illness. “We found that being outdoors, seeing trees, listening to birds singing, seeing the sky and feeling in touch with nature were associated with higher levels of momentary mental well-being,” says the study. “Furthermore, we found that these beneficial effects can still be seen, even if the participant was no longer outdoors and no longer had access to nature.” This effect indicates the lasting impact of nature on the mental quality of the individual.

Another interesting fact is that all these benefits were even more evident in people who have a characteristic of being more impulsive. The study draws on other research that links impulsivity with disorders. The point here is to state that the effects of nature can be even greater in people who are more vulnerable to mental health problems.

The group points out that such findings have potential implications for urban planning and design. The study is from King’s College London and was published in the January issue of BioScience.

Decreased pollution can contribute to reducing the risk of depression

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that pollution of fine particles, that is, those carried by air and that may include dust and soot, be kept below 10 micrograms per cubic meter (µg / m3).

Researchers at University College London said that falling levels of pollution worldwide could contribute to reducing the risk of depression.

In the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers analysed data from 16 countries and found evidence of a link between air pollution and a range of mental problems. With that, the team concluded that exposure to air pollution may be associated with an increased risk of depression.

It is well known that pollutants cause numerous health risks, ranging from heart and lung diseases to strokes. Now, with this research, scientists show that this pollution can also harm mental health, making it urgent the need for stricter control of pollutant emissions into the atmosphere.

Pollution versus Suicide

The research also shows evidence of a link between the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere and the number of suicides. According to the study, when looking at a three-day period, the risk of suicide is higher when pollutant levels are higher, compared to less polluted periods.

The team responsible for the study said it is not yet possible to confirm whether air pollution directly causes mental health problems, but says there is evidence to suggest possible causal mechanisms. This is because air particles can reach the brain through both the bloodstream and the nostrils, causing damage to nerve cells and changes in the production of stress hormones, which are associated with mental disorders.

How to contribute to this?

Much remains to be done to reduce air pollution levels in large cities. But the World Health Organisation recommends that industries limit their emissions and that there is more investment in technologies for the generation of renewable energy. These actions are not available to the majority of the population, but even so, it is possible to contribute to a more balanced environment by prioritising public transport and the use of bicycles, for example.

If you also want to do your part, join me now with this challenge! Help to develop and adopt your own environmentally friendlier approach to living, become a Planet Saviour. You can do a lot to increase the quality of life in big cities!

Sustainable tourism

Coronavirus requires us to rethink our way of doing tourism: less sea and overcrowded places, more nature. In UK there are many paths to discover step by step.

Thinking about the near future and coveted holidays, in many of us the negative feelings take over and the sense of difficulty in adapting to a new situation takes the upper hand.

However, you should not despair. History and nature teach us that such devastating events can be a stimulus and a push to improve and reinvent our existence. We will discover a new way to explore the world and enjoy the hot days of our summer, but nothing prevents us from living breathing the air full of scents and flavours of our days.

Our UK is a land full of paths, not always known, which can be safely travelled even in the current situation. So, it might be a good idea to consider a possible itinerary through our lovely countryside.

Sustainable tourism is the possibility of traveling across the world by caressing the streets and places, without causing any strain on our environment. We should remember more often that we are guests in this beautiful planet and, to travel it, it would be right to walk on tiptoe and with respect to what surrounds us.

Slow tourism is the best way to be able to empathise and balance not only with space, but also with our time. The paths must be tackled one bite at a time, savouring with all possible sensory perceptions the smell of the grass, the colours of the landscape, the silk caress of the petal of a flower, the sweet taste of a fruit just picked from the tree or the decisive flavour of a dish made with local ingredients, which still have the smell of the earth and genuineness on them.

Slowness is a dimension that is constantly taken away from too many commitments, from the haste of our existence; being at home during this period has led us to get to grips with the fact that time can be much longer. Even this last observation should not be seen only with the eyes of those who are forced to invent something to fill time. Time must not be filled, but must be lived. Slowing down does not mean not walking, but moving forward with a different speed that allows you to grasp more details, to try deeper experiences.

Going on long excursions on foot or by bicycle or a holiday in less crowded places was already a way of life for many; for this year it can be a feasible sacrifice to try a new experience. A short research on the net lets you know how many different paths there are in our beloved regions and for each of us there is at least one proposal to consider.

There are itineraries that take place over several days, but still possible for only one part of the stages, or shorter itineraries to be lived in a single day; contact with nature and the presence of small villages to explore and visit remains common to all.

Obviously as soon as we will be able to know something more than the conditions for going to the beach or other places safely, we will be free to consider these other travel prospects too. Living a pandemic is not the best of the possible situations for any of us, but we remain masters of our emotions and our happiness.

One step at a time, one path after another, one conquest and then another towards freedom will guide us towards a better tomorrow. Let’s be happy waiting!

Germany company creates portable solar generator

SOLMATE produces up to 25% of the electricity needed for a home, saving
about 6700kg of CO2.

Imagine being able to carry a portable solar energy generator with you?

If it depends on ETT, a German company, this will be possible for people from many countries. They created a device called SOLMATE, a photovoltaic panel with an energy storage system, which can be installed or taken anywhere.

The panels are connected to the storage unit by a cable, which is simply plugged into a standard outlet. The electricity generated by the panels flows directly into the house, as needed, without causing interference to the power grid that powers the residence. The excess energy is stored, to be used whenever necessary. In addition, the system has a mobile application that allows users to monitor the power supply.

SOLMATE was designed for people who live in apartments, for example, who would not be able to have their own solar energy generation system. Because they are compact and easy to install, the panels can be placed on balconies or any free space that receives sunlight. It is also possible to charge the panel while taking a walk!

To give you an idea, the storage unit with five light and flexible photovoltaic panels, which can be easily installed using velcro strips, costs around 2,700 Euros on the manufacturer's website.

On the website it is possible to obtain more detailed information. To learn more,
visit http://www.eet.energy/

French company makes biodegradable plastic using milk protein

Pellets are identical to plastic and can be used for product packing, including food

Last year, a French company Lactips has  found a way to transform casein, a protein derived from milk, into plastic. Pellets are 100% biodegradable and soluble in water – and do not cause any harm when disposed of in the environment.

One of the curiosities of this invention is that the plastic developed by Lactips is edible, since its base is milk protein. According to the company, this technology makes it possible to develop products that do not generate waste and that are safe for human or animal consumption.

Pellets are converted into packaging that can be used in various industry applications, being indicated for products such as soap and detergents, fungicides, herbicides and biopesticides, food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc.
According to the company, even though they are edible and soluble in water, the packages developed with this material have a biological base with excellent barrier properties, that is, they protect the internal content from external factors (mainly oxygen), which may contribute to the degradation and compromise product quality.

Lactips does not disclose its process of transforming milk protein into plastic, but guarantees that pellets can serve as a raw material to create films or any type of plastic. The raw material used by Lactips, in this case casein, comes from powdered milk manufacturers based in Eastern Europe.

The company recently signed a distribution agreement with the IMCD Group, to market pellets in France and the Nordic countries, but there are plans to expand to other countries.

University makes plastic from cooking oil

In addition to being durable, the new plastic degrades upon contact with land or sea, and can even be safely ingested by fish

The growing concern with the waste generated by human consumption habits, has caused researchers from several countries to seek solutions that minimise the negative impacts on the planet.

One such initiative comes from Slovakia. A partnership between the Slovak
University of Technology and the Crafting Plastics studio, resulted in the creation of a material, resistant as plastic, made from used cooking oil, corn starch and sugar.

The bioplastic, called Nuatan, is completely degradable when in contact with the environment, without offering any risk of contamination, and can even be consumed by fish.

Durable and versatile bioplastic

The material demonstrates a lot of versatility, due to the ease of being transformed into several types of packaging, including food.

According to the creators, the material can withstand temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius and has an estimated useful life of up to 50 years, depending on the composition of the mixture. In an industrial composter it degrades into water, CO2 and biomass.

A second generation of Nuatan, already under development, will allow the material to degrade into a domestic composter, in contact with the soil or the ocean water.

Currently, the production cost of Nuatan is too high to make it viable in large scale production. Designers Vlasta Kubušová and Miroslav Král of Crafting Plastics used the material to develop glasses. They coloured the material with natural pigments, such as coffee and saffron residues. To make the product 100% biodegradable, professionals created metal-free hinges, specially developed for this product. The price of each frame can vary from 250 to 400 Euros.

Now, the duo hopes that the creation can attract investors to help find ways to
reduce the cost of producing Nuatan, so that its use can become popular.