Inside a greenhouse at West Virginia University, a robot is rolling down aisles of blackberry plants learning to act like a bee. Computer vision algorithms are being developed to help the robot locate flowers, and its robotic arm, topped with a set of soft brush tips–designed to act like a bee’s hairs–will gently reach out to each flower and pollinate it. At the moment, the arm is practicing its technique on QR codes placed inside the blackberry bushes. “From a robotics point of view, we’re always trying to find solutions to the urgent problems in the world,” says Yu Gu, an engineering professor at the university who is working on the design of the robot, called the BrambleBee. Around three-quarters of food plants rely at least in part on pollinators, and pollinators are struggling. Colony collapse disorder, the mass deaths of honeybees from a combination of factors including diseases, pesticides, stress, and climate change, is making pollination … [Read more...] about This robot could help pollinate crops if we kill all the bees
More than three quarters of entering college students feel it’s their duty to help others in need, a sentiment that’s grown steadily in recent years. But how much are they willing to commit? On average, just 26% of all university students typically volunteer—lower than the number among high schoolers. “We’re at an all-time high of entering college students’ desire to do good, but we are far from an all-time high in college students actually doing good,” says Robert Grimm, the director of University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, which has compiled a report called “Good Intentions, a Gap in Action” about this trend. The number of college students volunteering is the lowest of all age groups, with higher interest at 29% among high schoolers, and then a surge that surpasses that on into young adulthood and middle age. All that’s troubling for a number of reasons. Theoretically, volunteering should increase among the … [Read more...] about College kids want to save the world, just don’t ask them to volunteer
If you buy ice cream from a Ben & Jerry’s store in London’s Soho neighborhood, the company will spend a penny to offset the carbon footprint of each scoop, and the cashier will ask if you’d like to donate an additional penny to make even more of an impact. In a new pilot, the café is the first retail store in the world to start using a tech platform that makes it possible to immediately and cheaply offset the climate impact of daily purchases. The emissions from a scoop of ice cream–including everything from the cows to transportation and freezing the product–add up to roughly a quarter of a pound of carbon dioxide. At the store, the new tech platform automatically recognizes the footprint for each customer. At a cost of less than a penny, it’s possible to support reducing the same amount of emissions through a forest conservation project in Peru. (Ben & Jerry’s is donating a full penny to ensure that the emissions are more than … [Read more...] about This tech offsets the carbon footprint of each item you buy
The former three-time mayor of New York is upset that the federal government has abdicated responsibility for pressing social issues, following what he calls an agenda based on “alternative facts” to back away from things like America’s global commitment to lower carbon emissions and fight climate change. He’s continuing to bet on cities as a greater force: Convince enough city leaders to act boldly and share what’s working amongst themselves, the logic goes, and you’ve got a collective power that can rival the federal government. Last year, Bloomberg backed that promise up with the $200 million American Cities Initiative to help mayors and city halls implement a vast array of programs, projects, and policies that might improve life within their metros. That includes creating a domestic version of their Mayor’s Challenge competition that awards both funding and coaching to cities with the most promising policy innovations, and reaching a … [Read more...] about Bloomberg Philanthropies bets $42 million on the power of cities
Oftentimes, social entrepreneurs have a difficult time accessing startup venture capital and brand support from more mainstream accelerator programs. But Bogusky and his colleagues wanted to create an accelerator that would accessible to social entrepreneurs worldwide via the internet, and with a low enough cost for entry that even small startups and nonprofit ventures could benefit. The monthly fee, they figured, was minimal enough to encourage a variety of startups to apply, but high enough to keep operations running. To date, COMMON’s roughly 200 member ventures span Choose, a platform that helps individuals purchase carbon credits to offset their environmental footprint, and Rice Love, a startup that upcycles rice bags into consumer products. COMMON has largely focused on helping these small ventures better brand themselves to attract attention on the market, but now the accelerator will be trying a different way to give their member companies a boost. On May 23, during the … [Read more...] about Could this “UBI for social enterprise” help fund business for good?