The Ultimate Summer Pest Gets Modified

As summer for many of you has already kicked off, you’re probably spending more time outside doing fun things; I know I am! However, perhaps like me, you’re adventures in nature include being munched on by mosquitoes. Ahh, the joys of summer!

After an escape into the woods by my house, I was covered in those annoying bites and sat down at my computer to catch up on the news. One article jumped out at me as I sat, scratching away. A team of HHMI researchers have just successfully genetically engineered mosquitoes by altering the way they respond to odors, like the smell of humans and the insect repellent DEET. These new findings pave the way to our understanding why the insect is so attracted to humans, and hopefully how to block that attraction so that they don’t bite us!

Yes, mosquito bites are annoying, so putting an end to the itchy welts would be great, but even more importantly, mosquitoes are disease-vector insects. Thus, in 2007, scientists began researching. They announced to the world later that year that they had completed the full genome sequence of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue and yellow fever.

A year later, HHMI researchers took the sequence and shifted their focus from Drosophila flies to mosquitoes with the specific goal of genetically engineering the insects. They first looked toward something they found ten years previously in flies: a gene called the orco which affects how some insects interact with smell. They injected a genetic modification tool called zinc-finger nucleases into mosquito embryos, waited for them to mature, identified mutant individuals, and generated the newly mutant strains.

Amazingly enough, these new strains had significantly different reactions to smell! When regular mosquitoes were given a choice between a human and any other animal, they happily buzzed toward the human. But the mosquitoes with orco mutations showed hugely reduced preference for the smell of humans over guinea pigs, even in the presence of carbon dioxide, which is thought to help mosquitoes respond to human scent!

The next step was for the team to test whether the mosquitoes with orco mutations responded differently to DEET. When presented with two human arms (one covered in DEET and the other completely bare) the mosquitoes flew equally toward both arms, which suggested they couldn’t smell the DEET. However, once they landed on the arms, those on the DEET covered arm flew immediately away. This was unheard of data, and the team went back to work.

Today the HHMI team is still at work trying to provide insights into how existing repellants work against mosquiotes, then plan to start brainstorming ideas about what a next-generation, possibly genetic, repellant would look like. Until they figure this out however, we all will have to deal with the pesky insects and their bites.

Eco-friendly Ways to Keep It Cool

As much as we like to pump up the AC during the hot summer days to come, you can cool down in a variety of ways that feel good and lessen your impact on the environment. Here are some things to try:

  • Keep the windows closed during the day to keep out the heat, but open them at night to let in cool air.
  • Wear white or light colors to reflect sunlight and consider using white window shades or mini-blinds to reduce solar heat gain.
  • Take showers or baths during the cooler times of day so you don’t spend as much time in the water.
  • Keep lights off as much as possible and use candles at night. It can be nice and freshening.
  • When you’re not home, shut off as many electric appliances as possible. They’re probably generating a lot of heat.
  • Get rid of incandescent lights. They use more energy, but also generate lots of heat as compared to fluorescent or LED light bulbs.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and replenish your body with cool water on days like this.
  • Plant a tree if you can. They can provide ample shade for your home.
  • Picnic in the back yard or hang outside in the evening with family, friends, or a good book.
  • And finally, get wet! A swim is sure to cool you down.

Have a great summer!

Go Green–and Go Outside

Summer vacation is ALMOST HERE! Time to run around, roll in the sand at the beach, eat loads of ice cream, go to the park, and picnics…we love picnics.

Or you could be the one barricaded at home with the air-conditioner on, playing video games. And not showing off your tan because you don’t have one.

Air-conditioner = waste of energy. Especially if you can be outside and actually enjoying your summer vacation. So don’t stay cooped up this summer–go green by going out! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Have a picnic. All you need is a cooler (replaces the fridge), sunlight (replaces the light in your kitchen) and sandwiches (replaces the oven/stove). You’re set.
  2. Go tanning at the beach. Why do you need to go to a energy-hogging tanning salon if you can just step outside and get a bronze-y glow? What’s that? You don’t have a beach near you? Just step outside; an hour or two in the sun will get you all the glow you need. But make sure to wear sunscreen with a decent SPF–that’s no joke.
  3. Play sports. You know, instead of going to the gym or working out at home. First off, it’s beautiful outside, so why wouldn’t you want to? Second, being in a gym or at home wastes electricity because of the lights and the equipment. Third, for goodness’ sake, you’re outside. And you’re getting tan. And you’re playing volleyball with your friends. Just go.
  4. Start a garden. This is the perfect weather to do so, and plants help out the environment and produce clean oxygen. And you’ll be outside getting tan. (How many times have I mentioned this now?)

 

Got any more eco-friendly suggestions for summer? Let us know in a comment below.

Photo credit: National Geographic

8 Greenest Vacation Spots

Summer vacation is right around the corner! Some of you may be working, doing volunteer work (like cleaning up the city or at a recycling facility, right?), or maybe even being a bum at home. But if you are amongst the lucky individuals that get to go on vacation, then congratulations, we all envy you right now.

Jk, but seriously, that’s fantastic! However, unless you haven’t figured it out yet, planning where to go is a huge deal as well. And considering that you are a reader of OnAir, we assume that you’re trying your best to be green.

So why not aim for places that are easy on the environment? Here are 8 vacation spots that are run on renewable energy, and I gotta tell ya, they do look nice.

Eden Lodge, Madagascar –

This resort promises to plant a tree for every person that stays there, and is powered 100% by solar panels!

© Eden Lodge

 

Majahuitas Resort, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – This resort is powered on solar energy, and doesn’t have air conditioning or television in the rooms to really get people in touch with nature.

© Majahuitas Resort, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

Paraguay – Because of the amount of dams in the country, they are able to produce hydroelectricity. Not to mention, Paraguay is a hot spot for nature lovers!

©kevin.j/Flickr

 

Berkshire East Ski Resort – The resort is powered by electricity produced from a wind turbine! How cool is that?

©Berkshire East

 

Blue Lagoon Resort and Spa, Iceland –  This resort uses  geothermal power from boiling saltwater underground.

©Robert Rozbora/Shutterstock

 

Matava eco-resort, Fiji – This resort is known to be powered with solar energy. Plus, they have grass rooftops. Now that’s green.

©Matava

 

Hidden Valley Cabins, Queensland, Australia – This is Australia’s first solar-powered resort, and it has lots of opportunities for exploring!

©Hidden Valley Cabins

 

Vail, Colorado – This city, which is home to several ski resorts, runs a carbon neutral operation where they buy wind credits to offset the energy they use.

©snowbuzz/Flickr

 

Do any of these places appeal to you? Would you want to go there one day? Have we given you bucket list prospects? Let us know in a comment below!

Source: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/stories/8-vacation-spots-powered-by-renewable-energy

A DIY project for the summer.

Gardening is so green. Plants are good air purifiers, growing veggies means cutting down on energy waste and air pollution used to ship veggies from big farms, and also…you know…leaves.

Staying home for the summer and looking for a project? Here’s a great idea:

©treehugger.org

What’s that, you say? Oh just a way to plant your plants SIDEWAYS.

What is so great about this idea is that it takes up less space and you can keep it in your home as well. Also, it’s a great DIY project for the summer. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 Bamboo Stick
  • 1 Pot
  • 1 Gardening Net
  • Twine
  • Soil

There’s a slideshow here to walk you through it.

Try it and let us know what your results look like!

Ice Cream + Bikes = Creamcycles?

©e-forwards.com

In downtown L.A., they seem to know what they’re doing. A man named Edward Belden has combined two of the most amazing things in the world in an eco-friendly way. Belden has created an ice cream machine that is powered by a bicycle.

Oh my god. Spring, bicycles, ice cream, what else does anyone need in life? Oh, a map you say? http://www.blogonair.org/bikes-are-in/

We already love bikes because they’re one of the air-friendliest ways to get around. Add in ice cream, and you’ve got a pretty sweet deal.

What do you guys think about this? Have you ever done anything similar where you found alternative sources of energy to make things you enjoy? Let us know in a comment below!

http://grist.org/list/a-bike-that-churns-ice-cream/

Green Shopping

As of now, retail and department stores are advertising their great deals and back-to-school specials for the coming school year. However, due to the economy and price strategizing, we find ourselves driving to lots of different stores for specific items that we want to buy, alternating from the best jeans to the coolest shoes. So what’s the best way to go about this?

First, go online and price different stores for the items that you want and love. If you have a type of jean that you prefer in one store, see if you can find the other clothes that you want in the same store. While this saves a load of your time, it also saves the environment as well. You would be saving your car from running empty in the fuel tank; simultaneously you would prevent the amount of harmful CO2 emissions in the air.

Try and plan your major and minor shopping to all be located in one centered area and not scattered throughout your hometown. There are many advertisements stating the benefits of taking one’s business to individualized retail stores, instead of the mall. However, with some searching on the internet, you might find that the deals can be better. This is extremely helpful to the clean air cause because the mall has a multitude of department stores and other various items in one place without you having to travel that much by vehicle. Or, if you don’t care to shop at the mall, many stores are now teaming up to build their franchises next to one another in hopes of reducing the amount of travel that their customers have to endure.

Likewise, you could plan to do your shopping with a group of your best friends and decide to all carpool to the mall or store of your intention. It would be helpful to the cause and could be a fun day out with your friends. Better yet: if you don’t want to carpool, you could ride the metro line, subway, or even the bus.

 

OnAir says: When you bundle a lot of errands together to cut down on extra car trips, we call that “trip chaining”–and it’s a great, simple way to cut down on pollution. Also, who WOULDN’T prefer to go shopping in a group? Keep that in mind, and carpool next time!

A Park Themed Vacation

Photo credit: National Geographic

The first half of summer is already over for most people, and the camps and time spent at the pool are starting to become mundane. Now it is about time to take the great family vacation, which can be the best or the worst part of the entire break.

On one hand, you may get to go somewhere new or cool, but on the other hand, you will have to share a room with your whole family for possibly a number of weeks, and you might not really enjoy the activities that your parents pick.

A good idea is to give a little friendly input about the trip. I’m not saying you will get to pick the location, but I bet your parents want you to have a good time on the trip, too. If they didn’t, then they wouldn’t pay the money to bring you along.

Probably one of the best suggestions you can make would be to spend part of your time outdoors. You won’t get cramped into small spaces with your baby brother, and you can pick from thousands of things to do. Each state has its own, very unique features, activities and scenery, but most importantly each state has its own national parks!

National parks are some of this country’s most underestimated sources of not just fun, but of beauty and wonder. The western national parks and forests in the United States will literally take your breath away. Pictures can’t even depict the magnificence of the natural world. Water is so blue it looks unreal. Trees are bigger than thirty houses, and pebbles shine like millions of diamonds.

No matter what state you are in, and no matter where you are in that state, a national park is never more than a car ride away, and is always more fun than anything your parents will think of. This summer, think whitewater kayaking in a river, not White Water rides.

This summer, think park themed, and not theme parks.

OnAir says: Wanna visit a national park, but not sure which one’s closest? Check out the National Park Service’s Find a Park page. Enter your location or just click on the map to find the park closest to you. Now go outside!

Greencation!

This summer, you and your family might be planning to go on a vacation or two. And while your parents will be making most of the decisions and reservations, etc., there are things you can do to help and remind them to have an eco-friendly trip!

If you’re staying at a resort of hotel, look for places that have a low impact on the environment, like campsites and green hotels.

Remember that air travel is a really big offender in the greenhouse gas department, so consider other modes of transportation like the train. If flying is a must, then check out frequent flyer miles so you can also track your carbon footprint. Some companies (like Sustainable Travel International) let you buy credits that put your money towards projects that aim to lower CO2 in the air.

A good thing to remember is to pack light, because carrying heavy luggage uses lots of energy. When out and about in the world, make sure to unplug your phone or laptop chargers when you’re not using them, because this also saves energy.

Wherever you may find yourself this summer, have fun and do what you can to save our planet, little by little.

Have a Red, White, & Green Fourth!

Independence Day is just around the corner, and you know what that means: fireworks and outdoor cookouts galore! But since we’re in the middle of smog season, some may not look forward to an all-day, outdoor cookout followed by an evening filled with smoke-producing fireworks.

But, cheer up! Because here are some green solutions to help you breathe easier on the Fourth of July.

Fireworks

While fireworks are one of the best parts of Independence Day, they’re infamous for spreading dangerous toxins such as carbon monoxide into the air.

So, the best thing to do is reduce the amount of fireworks out there. Instead of buying individual fireworks, get a group together and head to the nearest large fireworks display. Imagine it – 100 people looking at one display of fireworks is better than 100 people each lighting their own fireworks. (Just like a bunch of people riding the bus is better than each one driving his/her own car. But we digress.)

You’ll be cutting down on the amount of air pollution while still getting into the Fourth of July spirit.

An even better option is heading to a light show or a laser show. Since lasers are light without the smoke, laser shows are the completely air-friendly way to see colorful, popping displays. Here in Atlanta, the ever-popular Stone Mountain Laser Show is a summer staple. Carpool in for an amazing Fourth of July view.

Barbecue

Having a green barbecue doesn’t have to be difficult. Just remember to try to stay sustainable!

  • Attempt to stay away from plastic and aluminum dishware. Instead, go with regular dishware and utensils – they’re reusable!
  • For the menu, stick to local food.
  • Use a gas grill instead of a charcoal grill for fewer emissions.
  • If you just can’t let go of the charcoal, try using a FSC-Certified brand such as Wicked Good Charcoal– it’s made from industrial scrap wood produced from clean-energy turbine heat!

And if you’re worried about smog on the Fourth, remember our tips for outdoor activities on high smog days.

What are your Fourth of July traditions? Leave them in the comments below. And don’t forget to log your air-friendly Fourth of July activities on the AirCreds tool for points and prizes!