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How old fishing nets turn into chairs, car mats and Prada bags

A company called Aquafil is turning the fibers from fishing nets and old carpets into new threads for chairs, car mats, bikinis and Prada bags.

Aquafil

Discarded nylon fishing nets in the oceans are among the most harmful forms of plastic pollution. Every year, about 640,000 tons of fishing gear are left in our oceans and other water bodies to turn into death traps for marine life. London-based non-profit World Animal Protection estimates that entanglement in this “ghost gear” kills at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales every year. Experts are challenged to estimate how many birds, turtles, fish and other species meet the same fate because the numbers are so high.

Since 2009, Giulio Bonazzi, the son of a small textile producer in northern Italy, has been working on a solution: an efficient recycling process for nylon. As CEO and chairman of a company called Aquafil, Bonazzi is turning the fibers from fishing nets – and old carpets – into new threads for car mats, Adidas bikinis, environmentally friendly carpets and Prada bags.

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Michaela Haas
Michaela Haas, PhD, is an award-winning reporter and author, most recently of Bouncing Forward: The Art and Science of Cultivating Resilience (Atria). Her work has been published in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, and numerous other media. Find her at www.MichaelaHaas.com and Twitter @MichaelaHaas!
Movie still from the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage" depicting a shrunken submarine amid red blood cells

A movie still from the 1966 film "Fantastic Voyage"

20th Century Fox

In the 1966 movie "Fantastic Voyage," actress Raquel Welch and her submarine were shrunk to the size of a cell in order to eliminate a blood clot in a scientist's brain. Now, 55 years later, the scenario is becoming closer to reality.

California-based startup Bionaut Labs has developed a nanobot about the size of a grain of rice that's designed to transport medication to the exact location in the body where it's needed. If you think about it, the conventional way to deliver medicine makes little sense: A painkiller affects the entire body instead of just the arm that's hurting, and chemotherapy is flushed through all the veins instead of precisely targeting the tumor.

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Michaela Haas
Michaela Haas, PhD, is an award-winning reporter and author, most recently of Bouncing Forward: The Art and Science of Cultivating Resilience (Atria). Her work has been published in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, and numerous other media. Find her at www.MichaelaHaas.com and Twitter @MichaelaHaas!
These doctors have a heart for recycling

In the U.S. and Europe, it is illegal to reuse pacemakers and other implants. Therefore, cardiologists export them to the global South where they save the lives of people of all ages.

Carsten Israel

This is part 3 of a three part series on a new generation of doctors leading the charge to make the health care industry more sustainable - for the benefit of their patients and the planet. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

One could say that over 400 people owe their life to the fact that Carsten Israel fell in love. Twenty years ago, as a young doctor in Frankfurt, Germany, he began to court an au pair from Kenya, Elisabeth, his now-wife of 13 years with whom he has three children. When the couple started visiting her parents in Kenya, Israel wanted to check out the local hospitals, “just out of professional curiosity,“ says the cardiologist, who is currently the head doctor at the Clinic for Interior Medicine in Bielefeld. “I was completely shocked.“

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Michaela Haas
Michaela Haas, PhD, is an award-winning reporter and author, most recently of Bouncing Forward: The Art and Science of Cultivating Resilience (Atria). Her work has been published in the New York Times, Mother Jones, the Huffington Post, and numerous other media. Find her at www.MichaelaHaas.com and Twitter @MichaelaHaas!