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10 innovative ideas to help climate crisis on display at NYC science fair

By Rosemary Misdary

climate sign

10 innovative ideas to help climate crisis on display at NYC science fair

NYC Climate Week’s inaugural science fair opened on Wednesday at the High Line, where it showcased 10 innovations aimed at addressing the climate crisis.

Start-ups and inventors presented their products — which ranged from hybrid electric jets to sunglasses made from captured carbon dioxide — along the narrow strip between West 14 and 17th streets. The science fair aims to give the public an opportunity to interact with the innovations and ask the creators questions directly. The event was sponsored by the Emerson Collective, a nonprofit with a goal to solve complex issues such as climate change through financial investment and philanthropy.

“Our hope is to absolutely inject hope during climate week,” said Dawn Lippert, senior climate adviser at the Emerson Collective. “I hope people come away from the climate science fair with a sense of optimism of what's possible in solving climate change.”

pinwheelsMr. Flower Fantastic is one of the artists featured at the Climate Science Fair. These pinwheels are made of recycled materials.

The Emerson Collective invited this set of creators to demonstrate ways to reduce the carbon footprint of everyday human life, including what we wear. Textile maker Evrnu does more than recycle clothes — it takes old materials, mostly polyester and cotton, and breaks them down to their basic building blocks to make reusable fibers called Nucycl. The result is a more sustainable way to cut waste while repurposing the 21 billion pounds of textiles every year that go straight to U.S. landfills. The company has worked with major brands such as Zara, Pangaea and Levi’s.

“I saw how we're cutting corners around the environment to make apparel and how people are living as a result of that damage,” said Stacy Flynn, founder of Evrnu. “I decided that I wanted to use the rest of my career to finding solutions where we weren't cutting corners around environment and people.”

stacy holding nucycl sweatshirtStacy Flynn is the CEO and founder of Evrnu, a company that takes discarded textiles to make new garments. Next to her is an outfit she produced for Zara.

peopleClimate Science Fair attendees stop at one of the information booths for swag and a map of the exhibits.

Next year, Evrnu will open its first large-scale garment recycling facility, which the company states can produce 18,000 tons of Nucycl annually and consume less than half a million tons of water. The same amount of cotton production would use up 36 million tons of water, according to the company. Scientists and fashion industry watchers say that making just one cotton T-shirt uses just over 700 gallons of water and can produce around 15 pounds of carbon dioxide. The fashion sector is responsible for up to 8% of global carbon emissions, according to the United Nations.

“I hope by the time my career is over, all garments are recyclable and the global infrastructure is set up to do it,” said Flynn, who will be 77 when she hopes to retire in 2050.

Other science fair participants are aiming for the skies. Twelve, named for the atomic mass of carbon, aspires to take carbon dioxide pollution from the air to create products such as the plastic interior of a Mercedes-Benz or the additives in Tide laundry detergent. Plastic products currently use carbon sourced from oil.

coffee cupsSky High Farms practices sustainable farming and donates its crops. At the Climate Science Fair, the organization is giving away seeds and iconic NYC coffee cups filled with dirt.

model planesAmpaire is creating hybrid electric jet planes that can travel up to 1,200 miles (about the distance from NYC to Miami). Founder and CEO Kevin Noertker said these planes could cut emissions up to 70%. The models are on display at the Climate Science Fair.

“There's a vast supply of carbon [in the atmosphere],” said Nicholas Flanders, one of the founders of Twelve. “We really don't need to ever pull any new carbon out of the ground in the form of oil to run our global economy for many years.”

Carbon dioxide is made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. By using water and renewable energy, Twelve separates the carbon from the oxygen, and the carbon is then used to make plastic materials. The company is aiming for large-scale commercial production within the next two decades.

“It's a new answer to that question of what do we do with all of this CO2,” Flanders said. “We're able to reintroduce that carbon back into the global economy because we still need carbon, even in a fully renewable-powered economy.”

people on the highlandThe Climate Science Fair drew crowds on its first day. Most attendees happened to stumble upon the event while visiting the High Line.

The Climate Science Fair features workshops on how to repurpose clothes and sustainable foods, as well as fireside chats in the High Line Amphitheatre —including a talk with Bill Nye the Science Guy — about climate optimism on Friday at 2 p.m.“I'm hopeful because there's more things like this [climate solutions],” said Marina Garcia-Vasquez, a fair attendee from Brooklyn. “These types of public activations allow for more of the public to be involved and to acknowledge that there are solutions for the future.”

The science fair, which is free and open to the public, runs through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Here’s a link to the program.



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